Monthly Archives: December 2011

Royce Dickerson Interview: My Rise to Associate Producer of Baseball Tonight on ESPN

Saturday December 31, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  For our final feature of 2011, we have the privilege of interviewing the person behind one of our favorite baseball programs.  Royce Dickerson was very kind to join us to chat a little baseball today.  As Associate Producer of Baseball Tonight, Royce is very busy at ESPN in putting together the content and production of the hit baseball show.  In broadcasting terms, Royce has hit the jackpot.  After learning about Royce, I wondered how a former Mariners draft pick rose to the ranks of ESPN programming.  My gut told me that this was an important baseball story that must be shared with our readers. Get to know Royce as you read his baseball tale: from the MLB draft, university, Indy ball and all the way up the ranks to ESPN. Royce has a success story that many people work towards. Baseball dreams do come true- Royce Dickerson is living proof of that.  Have you ever wondered how baseball highlights and programming gets to your television set? We introduce you today to one of the key players behind the scenes who makes that happen. It may not always be glamorous and the career definitely translates to countless hours and immense hard work.  But at the end day, there is nothing else on this earth that Royce Dickerson would rather be doing for a living.

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Royce Dickerson, Associate Producer of Baseball Tonight on ESPN:

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MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Royce.  First question:  You were drafted by the Mariners in 2002 out of high school.  What was the first thought that went through your mind when you got the call?

Royce Dickerson:  I was 18 when I got drafted and I remember I was driving around town running errands because I had a summer league game that night and wanted to get some stuff done. I didn’t actually believe it when I got the call cause I was still coming off an ACL, MCL tear and I wasn’t completely healthy yet. When I tore my knee up I thought that there was no way that I would be drafted. Once that call came it took a few minutes to sink in and I was elated. I immediately called my dad and mom and told them and they were just as excited as I was. It was something that I will always remember as one of the best accomplishments in my life.

 

MLB reports:  You ended up choosing to go to school over playing professional baseball.  Was it a difficult decision?  Looking back, would you have made the same choice?

Royce Dickerson:  It wasn’t too hard of a decision at the time. I was drafted in the 27th round and there wasn’t a lot of money in that late of a round and I wasn’t completely healthy. I thought at the time it was in my best interest to go to school and try to improve my draft stock in college and hopefully become a higher round pick after my junior year. Looking back it was the right choice. I didn’t want to go into pro ball not 100% on a knee that wasn’t completely healed yet. I would have been at a dis-advantage right away with the limitations of my knee, even though I had played a full high school season and started playing summer ball.

 

MLB reports:  How did you enjoy Western Michigan University?  What did you study?

Royce Dickerson:  I loved Western Michigan. Its home to me and I had known then Head Coach Fred Decker for a very long time so it was a very easy decision for me to sign with Western. My dad played football at WMU in the 70’s and my mother went there as well. Being a second generation athlete at Western was awesome, its something that my dad and I will have with us for our entire lives. I was born to be a Bronco and I loved every minute of it. While in school I studied Journalism. I went into school knowing that I wanted to do something in that field of work.

 

MLB reports:  When you completed university, tell us about your experience playing indy ball.

Royce Dickerson:  Indy ball was great, it was a chance to play baseball and get paid to do it. Being in a small town and playing in front of 5,000 fans every night was amazing. We were treated like celebs in Traverse City and the organization took great care of us. I know a lot of players complain about the long bus rides and low pay but at the same time it was a chance to play professional baseball and a chance to meet and see a lot of new things. I wish I could’ve done it longer but there came a time where I realized that I had to start my other life and the dream of playing in the big leagues had to stop.

 

MLB reports:  Was it always your plan to play professional baseball growing up- or did you have a different plan for life?

Royce Dickerson:  It was baseball from the beginning for me. I was in love with the game from day one. There was a time when I thought that I was a football player and then sometime around 8th or 9th grade I realized that I was really good at baseball and I shifted a lot of my focus to baseball while playing basketball and football.

 

MLB reports:  How did you get your start in broadcasting?

Royce Dickerson:  I got my start in high school actually. I took a Broadcast Journalism class in high school and that pretty much settled it when I took that class. From then on I got an internship at WWMT News Channel 3 in the sports department and learned about producing Sports TV from the Sports Director at the station, Ed Kengerski. He taught me so much and to this day I still credit him for giving me the producing gene.

 

MLB reports:  What brought you to ESPN?  That is the big leagues of televised sports!

Royce Dickerson:  Shortly after I retired from indy ball I was looking for jobs at ESPN and other sports media outlets. After not  being able to find a job anywhere my dad called a college friend of his who works at ESPN and he got my resume on the right persons desk. Three weeks after that I interviewed at ESPN and a month after the interview I started my career at ESPN.

 

MLB reports:  How long have you been at ESPN and how has your role developed since you started?

Royce Dickerson:  I have been at ESPN for 3 ½ years now. I started out as a Production Assistant cutting high-lights for SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight and other shows for the network. I also performed other tasks such as overseeing the non High-Light related video for SportsCenter and ESPNews. After about a year at ESPN, I was lucky enough to be staffed on Baseball Tonight at the start of the 2009 season as a Production Assistant on the show. I worked on the show everyday for the entire season cutting Analysis tapes for the Analysts, Web Gems as well as producing the Graphics for the show. Early in 2011 I was promoted to Associate Producer and the role changed quite a bit. With the new title I was now responsible for Producing Television content for the show. I produce the Baseball Tonight Extra that airs within SportsCenter during the baseball season, Baseball Tonight segments that air within the morning SportsCenter that looks back on the previous day or look forward to the upcoming night of baseball, as well as all highlight segments that air on ESPN.com. At the end of the year I was provided the opportunity to produce an entire Baseball Tonight on my own with the oversight of our Coordinating Producer. In the 3 ½ years that I have been here, my role has completely changed and will continue to change moving into 2012.

 

MLB reports:  Biggest names that you have worked with in the baseball world?  

Royce Dickerson:  I am lucky enough to work with some great people at ESPN. I have worked with former players such as Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, Bobby Valentine, John Kruk, Curt Schilling, Rick Sutcliffe, Orel Hershiser, Aaron Boone, Chris Singleton and recently I produced Terry Francona at the 2011 Baseball Winter Meetings.

 

MLB reports:  Biggest sporting moment that you got to cover?

Royce Dickerson:  I’ve been fortunate enough to cover three World Series to this point, three all-star games, I was working on the last night of the 2011 season in Baltimore on that crazy day where the Red Sox lost to the Orioles and the Rays won the Wild Card. But the biggest moment so far that stands out to me happened about three weeks ago, when we were at the Winter Meetings and I was the producer when the Albert Pujols to the Angels news broke. We had a segment all planned out and three minutes before we were going live on SportsCenter from Dallas, we got word that Pujols had agreed with the Angels. For me to be the producer when the biggest name in the game changed teams and covering that moment was something that I will always remember and to this point has been the highlight of my career to be the producer for ESPN when Albert Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals for the Angels.

 

MLB reports:  Do you ever see yourself taking a different role in baseball, perhaps coaching?

Royce Dickerson:  There was a time when I couldn’t find a job that I thought about becoming a grad assistant at a school and get started in coaching. It was never a passion of mine but I thought it was something that I could be really good at and it gave me a chance to stay in the game. Coaching is something that I would’ve love to have done but once I got the call from ESPN, that avenue was no longer an option.

 

MLB reports:  What is a typical day for you like working in ESPN?

Royce Dickerson:  I love my job cause everyday is different. I go into work everyday around 4pm and start getting prepared for our 4:30p.m. ET production meeting where we sit down with the entire show staff and lay out the day, talk about the biggest games, big storylines, news of the day, what the analysts at thinking about and looking forward too and just start setting the table for that day. From that point the producers and the other associate producers on the show attempt to figure out the best course of action for the show that night and assignments are handed out. On days that I am the segment producer for the show I am responsible for producing the BBTN Extra and all of the other segments that are requested for our group. When I produce segments we all sit in a room with the analyst and anchor and watch games and let our show develop during the night. Picking what game to lead the show with, what storylines we find in games and put a great show on TV that night for baseball fans. On days I don’t produce segments I cut the breakdown tapes for the analysts. I watch games, go to the analysts with ideas about what we can show on the tape or some night ill cut Web Gems for the show among other elements that are seen during the night. The days are long cause we don’t leave till all the games are over so we can react to anything. That means staying at work till that 10:15p.m. ET Padres vs Giants game ends at 2:00a.m. or later.

 

MLB reports:  How many times a day do you pinch yourself knowing that you have a dream job for so many sports fans?

Royce Dickerson:  There are definitely those times when that happens. I am lucky to get to go a lot of places and see a lot of awesome things. There is nothing like being getting to cover the game for the national media and just being around the people that I get to work with on a daily basis.

 

MLB reports:  Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Royce Dickerson:  In five years I see myself being a full-out producer for ESPN. Whether that means covering Baseball or Producing SportsCenter for the Network, I don’t see myself leaving ESPN anytime soon. It’s a great place to work and I am lucky enough to get to watch sports and report it for a living.

 

MLB reports:  Final question:  What is the future of sports broadcasting?  What changes do you foresee over time?

Royce Dickerson:  It’s a rapidly changing field in which something can and will change at any moment. I do however feel good working for a company such as ESPN. We are always looking at ways to make our product more viewer friendly and enhance their experience in watching our shows and that is something that will never change.

***A special thank you to Royce Dickerson for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  You can follow Royce on Twitter (@Royce3D) and please feel free to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of this page.  We love to hear from you!***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Robby Rowland Guest MLB Blog: Welcome to Robby’s World

Saturday December 31, 2011

MLB reports:  Happy New Year everyone!  On this New Year’s Eve, we get reacquainted with an old friend.  Earlier this month, we featured our interview with Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect, Robby Rowland. After getting to know Robby and staying in touch, Robby has been gracious enough to prepare a Guest MLB Blog, exclusively for the Reports. Fans of the game love to interact with its favorite players. But there are fewer bigger rushes that being able to get inside the mind of a player. Today on the Reports, Robby has opened a window into his mind and soul.  We get to meet Robby and learn about his story. From growing up as a 2nd generation ballplayer, to signing with the Dbacks and his experiences during his first two professional seasons. What does a ballplayer do during the offseason to spend his time?  Robby lets us know…and the answer may surprise you.

Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect, Robby Rowland and his Guest MLB Blog:

Robby Rowland-  Guest MLB Blog:  First and foremost, I would like to thank Jonathan from MLB reports for giving me the opportunity to write this blog entry. With that being said, I would also like to add as a side note  that I did not go to college. So if the writing in this blog is a little off, then just blame my high school teachers…

For those of you who donʼt know me, I would like to take this time to try to give you guys a clear understanding of who I am. I know when I was growing up, I was always so curious about professional athletes and what they were like. I would always look at each of them as an idol or someone famous. But in reality, us professional athletes are just everyday people. Yes, we might get some media attention and be on TV.  But at the end of the day, we really are just normal people like you. I have always admired the professional athletes who, after big games or TV interviews, would still stay humble. Thatʼs one thing that my parents taught me at a young age. No matter what happens, you have to stay true to who you are.

And once again, I apologize if everything is just thrown into one paragraph. I have so many good ideas on what I want to discuss today and quite frankly, my writing skills are not as good as my pitching skills!

Now to the part where I tell you fans a little bit about myself. Let’s see… I was born in Toledo, Ohio on December 15, 1991. I bet you are wondering why a California kid was born there. Well, my dad was also a professional baseball player before me. He was playing for the Toledo Mud Hens at the time and that year we spent the offseason in Toledo. My dad played parts of 6 years in the big leagues, with the Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Giants. After I was born, I spent the next several years traveling from ballpark to ballpark. I was very young, so I donʼt remember everything about my old man’s playing days. But I do remember some of the ballparks, especially Fenway! I have some old pictures of my brother and I getting to run the bases at Fenway, but I donʼt quite remember the experience. I do remember getting to go into the clubhouses after games and wait for my dad.

We did end up moving to Cloverdale, CA in 1998. Why you ask? Because this is where my parents grew up and went to school. Cloverdale is a very small town, with a population of about 7,000 people. It has only 1 high school with about 400 students total. It definitely doesnʼt have a variety of restaurants to choose from or many of the big city amenities. I love the small town atmosphere. Everyone knows each other and the people all come to support you in the local high school sport games. It very much enjoyed growing up in this supportive and tight-knit community.

In June 2010, I was drafted in the 3rd round (88th overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks. What a packed month, as during that month of June I graduated high school, got drafted, made my professional debut and got a girlfriend… talk about a roller coaster ride! I spent my first professional baseball season in Missoula, MT- the Rookie affiliate for the D-Backs. I got to spend that whole summer with my brother, who signed with the D-Backs the day after I did. It was one of the best summers of my life. And a little bit of a blur to say the least!

It is now almost 2012 and I am in my second official offseason. So now the big question: What do Professional Baseball Players do during their time off from baseball? Well this question would be answered differently by a lot of players. During the season, all the players say that they canʼt wait for the season to be over, that it has been such a grind and they just want to rest… or whatever. And once the offseason hits, these same players say: ”Ok, now I got my rest time. Itʼs been great… for about a week. Wow, what am I supposed to do for the next 4 months!” Let me tell you what I do during my offseasons. I am a guy that can never sit still. I got kicked out of a lot of classrooms because I was so restless! So for me to be on my offseason, I am just plain miserable! I love being active to the point that when a day comes that I have nothing scheduled, I just donʼt know what to do with myself! Last offseason, I basically worked out, ran, watched movies, played video games and just chilled. I could not do that again this year. During the current offseason, I forced myself to get a little side job splitting and delivering firewood (editor’s note: what is this guy, Rocky?) that helped out a little bit. But my other job resulted in a broken truck window… I also help with the local boys varsity basketball team. So between all that, working out and running almost every day, this offseason has been a lot better.

Reflecting on my first two seasons in pro ball, things have not gone the way I planned. Actually, the complete opposite. But just because my seasons may not look great on paper and perhaps maybe my ERA doesnʼt show this, the reality is that I have improved a great deal since I started. It is a big adjustment coming from high school to professional ball. Every pitch here counts, whereas in high school, I didnʼt really care where it (each pitch) was going. I just knew people werenʼt going to hit me based on my abilities. I have learned so much during my two years of professional baseball. Not just from a physical stand point, but from the mental side as well. This game can be great to you… or it can tear you apart.  It all depends on how you approach the game.  You have to be mentally strong and bounce back from setbacks to ultimately make it in baseball.

All baseball players know that this is not an easy game. But I refuse to ever give up. What doesnʼt kill you, will only make you stronger. I love this game with a passion. I live and breathe baseball. My favorite saying is “Baseball is life, the rest is just details.” I know that I am so fortunate to have received the opportunity to live the life of a baseball player. There is nothing I would rather be doing right now. So just because I had a couple of slow seasons, it does not mean that I will give up. I will continue to battle and work hard until I have thrown my last pitch. “I have the opportunity to make my dream become a reality.”

Well I hope this wasnʼt too much of a mess and you guys got to know me a little bit better. If any of you have any questions at all, please feel free to tweet me. I love to interact with fans! If you guys donʼt know this already I am a very sociable guy. Thanks for your time. Hope to be back soon!

Robby Rowland


***Robby Rowland is a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.  A big thank you to Robby for his time in preparing today’s Guest MLB Blog!  Please feel free to leave any comments and feedback at the end of this page.  You can also reach Robby anytime on Twitter (@RobbyRow_12)*** 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

The Cardinals’ Playoff Chances in 2012

Friday December 30, 2011

Sam Evans: This has been anything but a fun offseason for Cardinals fans. Losing you best player from the past ten years has got to be rough on a franchise. However, they did win the World Series in 2011, and they have the right mix of players to potentially return to the playoffs in 2012.

Offseason:  Despite losing Albert Pujols to the Angels, the Cardinals signed six-time All-Star Carlos Beltran and brought back middle infielder Rafael Furcal. Beltran was signed to a two-year, $26 million deal. This was a very nice move for the Cardinals. They acquired a proven veteran outfielder who will be a large upgrade over Allen Craig.

Rafael Furcal is another solid player to have in your lineup. The Cards signed Furcal to a two-year $14 million deal. In 2011, Furcal hit only .231 in 87 games, but as recently as 2010, Furcal was worth 4.2 WAR. Furcal will be 34 heading into the upcoming season. Heading into the season, Furcal will be the fifth-oldest Opening Day shortstop. The main problem holding Furcal back is injuries. He hasn’t played one hundred games per year for two straight years since 2006. For 2012, IF Furcal can find a way to stay healthy, he should be able to hold down the shortstop position for St.Louis and be the spark at the top of the lineup.

Starting Rotation: At the head of the rotation is Chris Carpenter. Carpenter is the kind of pitcher that you build your franchise around. He threw 273 innings last year and he started game seven of the World Series. For 2012, Carpenter should have another mid-3′s ERA and be the true ace at the top of the rotation.

Following Carpenter will be Adam Wainwright. The return of Wainwright is really the wild card heading into the season. Wainwright was injured during spring training in 2011. His injury required Tommy John surgery and he missed the entire 2011 campaign. If Wainwright could return to his 2010 form, in which he was a Cy Young contender with a 2.42 ERA, then the Cardinals would be one of only a couple of teams with two true aces.

Next, comes the twenty-five year old lefty Jaime Garcia as the third starter. Garcia had a breakout year in 2010, but was somewhat inconsistent in 2011. If you take the average of Garcia’s last two years, you can find a realistic projection for this upcoming season. In this projection, he would be worth roughly 3.4 WAR per year. He’s signed through 2015, making roughly $6.5 million a year, so technically if Garcia is valued at 3 or more wins above replacement, he will be worth his contract. Overall, Garcia is a solid number three pitcher that is outperforming most pitchers his age.

Kyle Lohse will probably fall after Garcia in the rotation. Lohse is the Cardinals third-highest paid player, but he is simply not that good. Lohse had a 3.39 ERA in 2011, but a 4.04 xFIP suggested that he wasn’t as good as his numbers may imply. Lohse is a dependable number four starter who just happens to be overpaid.

Filling in the last spot in the rotation will likely be Jake Westbrook as the veteran fifth starter. Westbrook is a decent hurler who posted a 4.66 ERA last year. However, one has to wonder just how long it will be until Shelby Miller takes over the fifth spot in the Cardinals rotation.

Bullpen: Bullpen’s are easy to assemble in the world of baseball, so I never try to get too worked up over a bullpen. The Cardinals have a couple of hard throwing relievers in Jason Motte and Fernando Salas. Not to mention, Mark Rzepczynski made a good impression after coming over from the Blue Jays. My guess is that Fernando Salas may eventually become their closer because of his young age and upside.

First and Third Base:  Starting at first base for the Cardinals will be Lance Berkman, who takes over for the departed Pujols. Berkman had a bounce-back year in 2011 making his first All-Star team since 2008. I’d expect Berkman to perform more like his 2009 numbers, where he hit .274 with 25 homers. That is still a large discrepancy compared to Pujols’ stats, but the Cardinals will try to make up for it in other places.

At third base will be David Freese, the new Cardinals golden boy. Freese of course, was the NLCS and World Series MVP. Without Freese, the Cards probably wouldn’t have won the World Series. During the regular season, Freese hit .297 with ten homers in 97 games. Who knows if Freese can perform at the level he did during the playoffs in 2012. The key for Freese is going to be his health. He has never played over a hundred games at the major league level before. If he can stay healthy during the season, he is a great candidate to have a breakout year.

Middle Infield: At shortstop Rafael Furcal will be starting. You have to think that the Cardinals regret trading away Brendan Ryan last year. They believed that Ryan Theriot was their shortstop of their future, and traded away Ryan who was under a minimal contract through 2012. Besides Furcal, the Cardinals have Tyler Greene and Ryan Jackson as backups. Greene will stick with the major-league club, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Green was a midseason call-up who got some playing time.

Skip Schumaker should be the Opening Day Cardinals second basemen. Schumaker is an average hitter who plays below-average defense for a second basemen. The Cardinals should look to sign Carlos Guillen, or another second basemen that will be an upgrade over Schumaker.

Outfield: Most likely, Beltran will start in right field. He should be a crucial key to the Cardinals success. If Beltran can play like he did last year, then he will be worth his new contract.

In centerfield will be the youngest outfielder, Jon Jay who also played a key role in last year’s playoffs. Jay played in 159 games and hit .297. If Jay is to improve in 2012, he needs to have a more disciplined approach at the plate. Jay only walked 28 times last year. Jason Bay played in thirty-six fewer games than Jay, but he walked twice as many times as Jay.

In left field, Matt Holliday is the starter. Matt Holliday’s 7-year $120 million contract was part of the reason that the Cardinals couldn’t afford Pujols this offseason. Nonetheless, Holliday is a very good four-tool player. Holliday was worth 5.0 WAR last year, which is roughly how much he should be producing given the size of his contract. Looking at his peripherals, Holliday is due to have a somewhat better year than his 2011 campaign. Similar to many of his teammates, if he can stay healthy, Holliday should have another great year patrolling the Cardinals outfield.

Minors: In the last couple of years, St.Louis has greatly improved the depth and talent of their farm system. With names such as Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Tyrell Jenkins on the rise, there is no doubt that the St.Louis rotation will be very strong in the coming years.

Conclusion:  2012 will be a enthralling year for Cardinals fans. The team’s first year without Manager Tony La Russa and their franchise player Albert Pujols will have a much different feel than their previous seasons. Fans will be expecting a lot out of their players, and the team will need some breakout years from its key players to compete in 2012. However, given the current state of the NL Central, I believe the Cardinals can win the division once again and be a force in next year’s playoffs.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click hereand follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Mariana Bichette Interview: Meet a Real Life Baseball Mom and Wife

Thursday December 29, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  On MLB reports, we bring you all the key people associated with the game.  From team executives, coaches, scouts and players, we speak to everyone and anyone that is associated with the game.  To fully appreciate the game of baseball and all its complexities, we feel that it is important to learn the game from every point of view.  Today we break new ground, as have our first real life Baseball Mom and Wife on the Reports!  Mariana Bichette is married to former MLB player Dante Bichette.  Together, they raise two wonderful boys: Dante Jr. and Bo Bichette.

You will recognize the name Dante Bichette Jr. as the Yankees top selection in the 2011 MLB draft.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Dante Jr. tore up the Gulf Coast League in his debut and helped lead the team to a championship in his first season! With brother Bo coming up the ranks as well, the baseball future for the Bichette family looks bright! Mariana Bichette is the straw that stirs the drink in this household.  I got to speak to Mariana on a variety of subjects, including meeting Dante Bichette, getting married and her road on becoming a successful baseball mom and wife.  Mariana was fantastic, as she opened up on all subjects and did not hold back. An extremely intelligent and engaging person, I received a great baseball education from her.  If you ever wanted to know how a baseball family works behind the scenes, you are in for a treat today!   

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Baseball Mom and Wife, Mariana Bichette:

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MLB reports:  First question:  A baseball wife and mom.  Did you envision that you would be in these roles when you first met your husband to be?

Bichette:  Haha, no.  I think I had been to a straight-A student baseball game early on in high school in St Louis, but that was the extent of my exposure to baseball until I met Dante. And when I met him, I was not thinking of marriage, not even close!

 

MLB reports:  How did you meet Dante Bichette?  Was it love at first sight?  How long did you date before getting married?

Bichette:  I was a student at Boston University, but I was really more a student of the city of Boston!  Dante was the first person to walk in during my first day at work at Gold’s Gym on Landsdowne Street in Boston.  I showed him around and made him a few protein shakes.  He asked my manager to take me to the game and so my first day of work lasted about four hours.  My manager and I walked across the street to the game.  I had no idea that the structure across the street was Fenway Park, and did not understand what that meant to a Boston baseball fan in general.  Afterwards, I told Dante to meet my friends and I at a bar that I worked at, which was also located on Landsdowne.  I was about 45 minutes late and I was literally minutes away from not meeting him. Dante was walking out as I walked in.  The rest is history.  We were married 2 years later.  As a side note, I now have a huge photograph of Landsdowne Street, Gold’s on the left, Fenway on the right, hanging in my family room!

 

MLB reports:  How did you find the baseball wife lifestyle?  Is it the glorious lifestyle as envisioned by most?

Bichette:  I think that’s a funny question.  I guess some people see it as a glamorous life. I did know some people who made it glamorous, I guess.  But to me, I just met a guy who played baseball and figured it out along the way.  We have had 40 changes of address logged with the post office.  I moved from apartment to apartment and never lived in a home more than parts of 2 years during Dante’s career.  I made friends just about as quickly as I would see them go, via release or trade.  Literally, I moved in and out of homes three times a year and somehow raised two kids along the way.  

I learned sports massage, carried a massage table over one shoulder while pushing a stroller and holding a hand through pretty much every airport in the country. I settled kids in and then gave Dante a sports massage, once, sometimes twice a day.  But I didn’t struggle to travel. I could bring help as my option.  I was able to catch Broadway shows and visit museums.  I enjoyed dinners in the finest restaurants, often after hours. I also got to watch my husband do something with his life that only a relative handful of people ever get to try.  So, depends on what people define as glamorous.  I’m usually in jeans or in yoga clothes. I never want for anything but I also never want much. I did enjoy being around the best of the best everyday.  I learned a lot from that time in my life.

 

MLB reports:  When Dante hung up the spikes and retired, how did your life change?

Bichette:  By that time, I was “home” in Orlando Monday through Friday for Dante Jr’s school.  We would travel weekends to see daddy and then all summer.  So, the airplane travel to big league stadiums stopped, but we traded it for auto travel to youth baseball complexes around the southeast US. Fortunately, I did have help.  I didn’t have to try to be in two places at once. For Dante, I am sure it was a huge change.  For me, I just had less on my plate and could turn my attention to my kids’ sports rather than my husband’s.  And, I didn’t have to pack up so often.  So for me, life got really streamlined.  

After about three years, I sort of relaxed and got accustomed to the new “normal life”.  At that point, when Dante would consider coaching jobs, I would suffer mini freak outs.  I associate the baseball life to being on a hamster wheel- no big deal when you get it going.  But, hop off and realize what you were on…. I just would die thinking about starting up again!


MLB reports:  Please give us a little background on your education/ work experience.  What do you do for a living?

Bichette:  I started at Boston University in Boston but I met Dante at barely 18!  I had to finish up my degree via correspondence and then online courses. It took ten years :)  During baseball, I was always fully engaged in whatever philanthropic efforts were being supported by our team at the time.  Now, I help to run my younger son’s team, and other kids we have in these small hitting groups, in our cages we have in Orlando.  I’ve never not worked, I just have never actually made any money, haha!


MLB reports:  You must get bombarded with a ton of questions on your son, Dante Jr.  This interview will be no different ;)  What was Jr. like growing up?  Good boy or rebel?

Bichette:  A combination.  A rebel but not towards me.  Really directed at the established kid/ teen culture.  So a good boy, but at the same time, not boring and angelic. He always had a good scheme tucked away in his head.  Never boring!  Such a mom thing to say:  When D was born, I described him as my perfect person.  Now I would describe both my boys the same way, D and his younger brother Bo.  You cannot put them in a “box” or label either of my children.  You can trust them but they march to the beat of their own drum for sure. They are great that way.

 

MLB reports:  At 19-years of age, Dante Jr. already has a season under his belt.  Did you think he would become a professional baseball player so quickly?

Bichette:  About halfway through his senior season of High School, I began to think that yes, his development was going to snowball on us and land D in pro ball earlier than expected.  That’s exactly what happened.

 

MLB reports:  What was the discussion like in having Dante Jr. sign with the Yankees this past year with their top selection?  Did you have reservations about him playing and not going to school?

Bichette:  There was one thing we knew- if someone picked him first, and possibly second, he was going.  Period.  He could have been picked much earlier with someone’s 10th pick, or 4th pick, and we wouldn’t have been so excited.  I kept a pretty good log of all my communication with scouts along the way, and  had it pretty nailed down so that I knew where the interest was. I knew that he had a chance to go in the mid-30′s. But I also felt that the scouting community had him undervalued in respect to two or three teams, which had held their cards pretty close to their chests. So I felt there was a good chance teams would think they could get him later, and that he could drop to the Yankees at 51. As a family we were really impressed with how thorough the Yankees were with D. The team knew him as well as any club could. So if the Yankees were going to  defy the “experts” and take him, the only question to us was when to report.  We have the moment on video- it is priceless, D all decked out in a Jeter jersey, with all of us inside screaming our heads off. Poor Damon Oppenheimer, the scouting director- he called us and I’m sure no one made any sense. We just screamed ‘thank you’ at him.  It was perfect, as if we had always known that this was where he was meant to be.  It was actually surreal, as none of us had one ounce of apprehension about getting to Tampa and getting going.



MLB reports:  Are you currently based in Florida?  Your husband took a non-traditional post-retirement route.  He coached for a short while and is now playing professional tennis?  What’s the deal with that?

Bichette:  Yes, in Orlando.  Well, he had to try the coaching route but soon realized he was going to miss just as much of the kids’ lives as he would have if he had been a platoon player.  So that was a short-lived experiment.  Maybe some day.  He actually does not play professional tennis. I mean, he made like $35 at a club championship once, but that hardly counts.  Rumors take off, so that’s funny that his “tennis career” is taken as fact.  No- club tennis only. Dante became about as good as a club player gets pretty quickly, blew out his knees doing so, and now coaches our kids and their teams.  Actually, I guess now just Bo’s teams- and he runs invite-only hitting groups to get kids ready for their seasons.  TV, radio, the things that could be more expected- those don’t appeal to him.  He does local TV here and there, that’s it.  No desire to run up to the MLB Network regularly, with no need to stay in the public eye.  But we keep busy.  You’d be amazed what it takes to really train a handful of kids well.


MLB reports:  Is it hard to have your son away from home?  What are the feelings you went through as a mom sending him off to his first professional team?

Bichette:  Yes.  That was great to plan. But then when I dropped him off, I am sure I cried all the way home.  I couldn’t even stay to watch his first game.  Luckily for us, he is based in Tampa, just an hour and a half away.  So for the GCL we were there, with our coolers and umbrellas, like dorks, at almost every game. It was great though, as I got to meet his teammates, take everyone to dinner, and watch  the championship game and cheer our heads off.  I will probably die when he goes away to a full season league…  First of pride, then of missing him. But I’ll figure it out and probably show up relatively often.  I was talking with D about this a couple of weeks ago; we figured that maybe 2 weeks is the longest span of time we will not see each other. I am going to try to only be happy and excited for him and to not skype him every day. But I will not promise that.


MLB reports:  There are many influences out there in the world, including booze, drugs and PEDs.  How do you as a mom help teach your son to stay away from the negative aspects of society and keep on the right path?

Bichette:  This cannot be answered fully in this forum. I will say it starts when the child is young and it involves an all-encompassing value system. For us, it is Christianity,  being parents who are open and honest about their experiences,struggles and decisions, and nearly constant involvement and communication with and between parent and child.  I sat with D for hours upon hours discussing choices he could make and what outcomes they might bring.  We ran practices.  We ran teams. I was the mom sitting around waiting for the carload of kids I took to wherever we all chose to go for the day.  In short, I never gave him a chance to refuse to be with me or to listen to me.  But I gave up adult things like parties and galas as part of the process. So I think I earned the right to speak in his mind; I wasn’t a hypocrite.  We have a unique perspective on PEDs, given that Dante played MLB during the steroid era.  We have shared our decision-making process with our kids over and over. Basically we believe we left millions on the table by deciding Dante would not take PEDs. I wouldn’t have stayed with him if he did, so he chose his family over a lot of baseball numbers. I don’t know- I think there’s no secret or easy answer to this. It is a matter of staying close enough and involved enough to be invited into conversations. It is taking every opportunity at any given time to pour into your child, hoping that everything you say settles in, and the right decisions will come as a result.  

 

MLB reports:  I see that you are very active on Twitter.  How did you come to find the social media and what has your experiences been like?

Bichette:  I get made fun of so often for Facebook and Twitter because I like them both.  Yet I originally thought I would hate them.  I joined them both to stay in tune with who was in my kids’ virtual circle and then ended up finding all my own friends on the sites. I probably should not be having so much fun on either, but oh well :)  I haven’t had bad experiences and actually met new people who have become friends on both!


MLB reports:  Your son is also active on Twitter- where is dad?

Bichette:  Both my kids are on Twitter and Facebook, and Dante lives vicariously through what we tell him. But has less than zero interest in either.  Once in a while he says, “Ok, I guess I should do this huh?”  We say, “Yes”, and then, he doesn’t…


MLB reports:  Have you watched the VH1 show “Baseball Wives?”  If so, what are your thoughts?  Did anyone approach you for the show?

Bichette:  You know, the premise is embarrassing and misleading.  There’s a huge divorce rate in baseball… maybe some of that is due to people getting married to also achieve fame.  If anything, I think we needed anonymity during Dante’s career, not more attention.  So, I don’t understand wanting to be on the show.  On the other hand, if it were used to portray a wife of a baseball player instead of someone who labeled herself a “Baseball Wife” then I think it would have less of an ick factor to me.  No, I was not approached for that show.

 

MLB reports:  Could you see yourself in the future on television on any reality shows, whether it be “Baseball Wives” or a show devoted to the Bichette family?

Bichette:  No.  We have been approached twice to do a show based on our family.  I am going to give myself some credit and say that I am not so desirous of attention.  I have too much foresight to allow that to happen.  Does anyone see what happens to families who go that route?  Not interested!


MLB reports:  What are some things that people may not know about Dante Sr. and Jr.? Moms always know the scoops- let’s hear it!

Bichette:  This is way too open-ended (laugh).  They are both endearingly strange.  They are both myopic in their focus and can work forever at something they love and can’t bring themselves to work at all at something they don’t.  Dante Sr has one signature dance move and if you ask him to show it, he will proudly oblige.  D can rap, is ultra witty- but at the same time can be too sarcastic.  Also, he decided to learn the guitar last week and so, he did.  Like in three days.  The power of that kid’s mind is unreal.  Dante Sr is ridiculously afraid of heights and D likes to shoot himself 300 feet into the air at amusement parks, despite the fact that I’d rather he not.  Hmmm… Dante Sr used to go on the Professional Foosball Tour during some baseball offseasons.  D looks like a tour tennis player when he hits. I sometimes wish he would have pursued tennis, as I would have loved to see that….


MLB reports:  What are your plans for the future Mariana?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Bichette:  Perfect question- I work in 5 year plans.  So, Bo is 13 and so for the next 5 years, I will be mapping out and executing his development as a person and in baseball.  I know that sounds either exceedingly serious (aren’t 13-year olds supposed to just hang out and be 13), or somewhat uninspired and boring.  But it’s neither. It will take every bit of brain power I can muster, because in between I have to visit D and make sure I do what I can to encourage his path.  

We built these batting cages that have lovingly become known as “The Warehouse” amongst the serious hitters in town.  We built them for the kids when D was 14 and he grew up there.  We used them to teach initiative, discipline, work ethic and perseverance. Now we also have a killer gym in there.  So there literally is no excuse not to get your body right and your hitting in.  When D was here, between his team and Bo’s teams (little league, travel ball, school) we were packed and stretched for time.  Since D left, we decided to allow other kids to train. We have small groups that Dante Sr works with and there is a waiting list! I train moms while the kids hit- it’s a blast. So in the next few years, I will figure out how to best get kids what they need without causing families to go broke (I hate how youth baseball has become so financially draining). I hope in five years, Bo and all the kids in his grade that train with us are drafted and on their way to the big leagues.  From there, I will probably close up shop and go watch them all!


MLB reports:  Last question:  To any woman about to become a baseball wife or mom, what advice do you have?  What is needed to succeed in each role?

Bichette:  The advice I would have is the same for the soon to be wife of anyone- make sure you are in love with the man, not the profession.  Because the man will still be there when the profession is gone.  If that’s the case, make sure you are ready to go with the flow.  For baseball specifically, be adaptable and open to change, and be able to set up and get on with life quickly and break it down and move on just as quickly. If you want to have the same cul-de-sac of friends for thirty years, I’m snot sure this is for you. Become independent but a good companion at the same time. Be happy to play a supportive role.

Think long-term and have fun watching your husband do something that is amazing.  A baseball wife needs to be self-confident and essentially be a non-complaining single mom.  I would suggest that moms consider keeping the family unit together as much as possible.  Don’t try to be normal, as you won’t be.  Look at your life with kids on the road as a life of adventure and opportunity. Don’t be afraid to take along help so that you can enjoy your husband’s career along with him.  No one may give you credit for working, but if you keep a family close and together for the long haul, while helping pursue a one in a million career choice: you will know that you have worked and done well!

***A special thank you to Mariana Bichette for her time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  You can follow Mariana on Twitter (@MarianaBichette) and if you are really nice, she might become friends with you on Facebook!  You can also follow her sons on Twitter:  Dante Jr. (@Dante19jr) and Bo (@ichibo19)***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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Ryan Tatusko Guest MLB Blog: Reflecting on 2011 and Preparing for 2012

Thursday December 29, 2011

 
MLB reports:  We welcome back to MLB reports: Ryan Tatusko, pitcher for the Washington Nationals.  It is a special moment for us, as Ryan prepared the first ever Guest MLB Blog for the Reports.  Now he’s back, to give us his insights on playing Winter Ball in Venezuela and preparing for the 2012 season.  Ryan and I talk on a frequent basis and I have to admit, the man is 110% committed and focused on his goal: making it to the big leagues.  After completing his 2011 season in AAA pitching for the Syracuse Chiefs, Ryan is one step away from achieving that dream.  In his own words, we are proud to feature Ryan Tatusko and his Guest MLB Blog:  
 
 
 
 

Ryan Tatusko-  Guest MLB Blog:  It seems like VZL winter ball just ended and already we are talking about Spring training and how that is just around the corner! I had an absolute blast of a time in the VZL and I learned a lot of things, although my numbers really don’t show it. I was able to work on some things with the help of a pitching coach that has never seen me before; and thus he was able to look at me with a fresh set of eyes and help me out. What was great about still playing that late is that not only did I get to hear those suggestions, but I was able to use them in a game situation right away and test them out and continue to work on them. I am extremely thankful that I had that opportunity as I think it is going to be vital for me going into the 2012 season.

Alas, another season approaches and I am extremely excited for 2012 and to put 2011 behind me. For me, 2011 was a season that was filled with a lot of learning and going through new experiences and dealing with a lot of adversity and failure on the mound. I did have my bright spots and I really feel like I started to make a turn around the corner when the season was coming to an end. So I am eager to get 2012 started. I spent most of the year last year as a reliever, and I believe that is what I am going to do this year as well, although I am not too sure. Preparing to be a reliever is not much different from being a starter for me. I have my routine and what I like to do in terms of lifting weights and running. But when it comes to throwing, I might have to tweak it a little bit.

After the season ends, the Nationals send all of its players a manual it really wants us to follow in terms of running, core work, lifting, and a strict throwing schedule. This is extremely helpful in terms of them making it a step-by-step program for the players and easy to follow. Right now, I am taking some time off from throwing since I technically just got done with my season about 2 weeks ago. I will pick it back up once the new year starts, but that doesn’t mean the other aspects of my training have stopped either. I feel like if I stop running, it will be really hard for me to get to get back to where I currently am before spring training starts. 

My mindset right now is to do everything I can to make it to the next level in 2012. I really feel like I lost myself a little bit in 2011 and tried to do too many things and over think myself. I just didn’t allow myself to be as successful as I was in 2010. I learned a lot about myself and my own mental game down in the VZL and I think that will pay dividends for me this year. What I personally need to do to get to the big leagues this year is to attack the strike zone more and stop nibbling around the plate. I had a horrible tendency to try to make a perfect pitch every time and I wound up falling behind in the count and getting hit or walking people. When I walk people is when I truly get into trouble. I was able to work with Calvin Maduro with the Baltimore Orioles down in Venezuela and we just talked about the mental aspect of pitching. Just being able to do that and get a new view on things really helped me.

Overall, I am very excited for the 2012 season to start and to get ready for spring training. Although I am technically just starting my “offseason” right now, I have a few more weeks of letting my body rest. Then it’s back at it for about a month and a half before its time to report back to Florida!


 

***Ryan Tatusko is a pitcher in the Washington Nationals system.  Ryan played for the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA) and Harrisburg Senators (AA) in 2011.  Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of this guest blog.  You can also reach Ryan on Twitter (@RyanTatusko) as he loves to interact with his fans.  Please also visit and bookmark Ryan’s Blog (ryantatusko.wordpress.com) – Thanks Ryan and good luck in 2012!***

 

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A Great DH Can Mean Winning the AL Pennant

Wednesday December 28, 2011



Doug Booth-  Guest Baseball Writer:  

Watching the 2011 season, something really resonated with me while watching the American League:  ‘Where have all the great designated hitters in MLB gone?’  It seemed only a few years ago that every team had a bopper capable of hitting .300 with 30 HR’S and 100 RBI’s.  Upon further investigation, I found out some interesting facts.  First, let us look at the top-3 DH’s this past 2011 season.  Michael Young of the Rangers hit .338, 11 HR’S and 106 RBI, which was the best performance by any DH, in helping to win the Rangers a 2nd straight ALCS Pennant.  A close second would go to Victor Martinez, who spent 112 games at DH and hit .330 with 12 HR’S and 103 RBI.  The 3rd best DH was David Ortiz, who hit .309 with 29 HR’s and 96 RBI.  The rest of the DH’s were average to below average.  

The Yankees struggled with Posada and a rotation of Andruw Jones/Jesus Montero, although they hit about 30 HR’s combined.  The Blue Jays never had a set DH, but received decent production from Encarnacion and Lind.  The Baltimore Orioles had Vlad Guerrero, who had his worst year ever, as did the Angels’ Bobby Abreu and the Rays’ Johnny Damon.  The Seattle Mariners had washed up Jack Cust and the likes of Willy Mo Pena by the end of the year.  Oakland has steady Hideki Matsui, but not even a decent second half had him anywhere near his career average totals.  Kansas City has been placing Billy Butler back onto the field, so his DH role was limited this season.  Adam Dunn soon became a four letter word in Chicago’s South side.  Aging and injury prone players Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner saw the most amount of work for the Cleveland Indians at DH, so yet again these players were far from being in their most productive years.  

So what is the underlying theme here?  If you have a great DH, you may just make the playoffs and win it all.  Young, Martinez, Ortiz had their teams in contention all year for the playoffs.  The Tampa Bay Rays were the 4th team in the playoff chase and managed to overcome the position thanks to superior pitching.  One could definitely say that Michael Young vs. Bobby Abreu is worth a definite amount of wins at that position, considering what they each produced in the AL West.  

I am going to go through the last 20 years of ALCS Pennant Winners as part of my study.  80% of the time (the team with a great DH) was in the World Series:

1992 TORONTO-Dave Winfield .290 26 HR’S 108 RBI
1993 TORONTO-Paul Molitor .332 22 HR’S 111 RBI
1994 WORLD SERIES CANCELLED
1995 CLEVELAND-Eddie Murray .323 21 HR’S 82 RBI
1996 NEW YORK-Cecil Fielder 39 HR’S 117 RBI (Acquired at deadline by NYY)
1997 CLEVELAND-David Justice .329 33 HR’S 101 RBI
1998 NEW YORK-Darryl Strawberry 24 HR’S 57 RBI (295 AB IN 101 GAMES)
1999 NEW YORK-Chili Davis/Darryl Strawberry (not the greatest year-but in middle of NYY dynasty of 6 ALCS IN 7 YRS)
2000 NEW YORK-David Justice .286 41 HR’S 118 RBI
2001 NEW YORK-David Justice (not the greatest year but it was a solid NYY team.  Edgar Martinez led SEA to a 116-46 record and were prohibitive favorites but lost to the Yankees-Martinez year was .306 23 HR’s AND 106 RBI
2002 ANAHEIM-Brad Fullmer (hit .289 with 60 XBH in 130 games and a slugging % of .531)
2003 NEW YORK-Jason Giambi 41 HR’S 107 RBI
2004 BOSTON-David Ortiz .301 41 HR’S 139 RBI
2005 CHICAGO-Carl Everett 23 HR’S 87 RBI in 135 games
2006 Detroit Tigers-Dmitri Young (They did not have a definite DH after Young’s injury so this year so was the worst out of the 20 years.)
2007 BOSTON-David Ortiz-.305 35 HR’S 117 RBI
2008 TAMPA BAY-Cliff Floyd/Wille Aybar 22 HR’S 72 RBI combined (Again great pitching carried TB.)
2009 NEW YORK-Hideki Matsui .274 28 HR 90 RBI IN 456 AB
2010 TEXAS-Vlad Guerrero .300 29 HR’S 115 RBI
2011 TEXAS-Michael Young .338 11 HR’S 106 RBI

In 2006, half of the league possessed great DH’s:  Ortiz .287 54 HR 137 RBI, Hafner .308 42 HR’S 117 RBI, Giambi 37 HR’S 113 RBI, Thome .288 42 HR’S 109 RBI, and Thomas hit 39 HR’S 114 RBI.  This group is far more productive than the 2011 bunch.  Given this Information, why wouldn’t more teams elect for permanent DH slots just to gain an edge over their competition?  The Seattle Mariners had an incredible run from 1994-2004 with Edgar Martinez as a permanent DH.  The Boston Red Sox have won 2 World Series titles and are perennial playoff contenders with David Ortiz as their DH.  The Yankees have not been the same since Hideki Matsui has left the club as their DH.  This leads me to the Toronto Blue Jays pitching an offer to Prince Fielder and making Adam Lind a permanent DH.

With a signing of Fielder, the Jays could move Adam Lind to just a DH.  Could you dare envision a lineup of: Escobar SS, Rasmus CF, Bautista RF, Fielder 1B, Lawrie 3B, Lind DH, Arencibia C, Johnson 2B, and your pick of Thames or Snyder?  This would free up your club to make a trade as well.  If you are the Jays, and offered Yu Darvish the posting bid of over $50 million and another $60-75 million in salary, why wouldn’t you offer Fielder a 7 year deal in the $140-150 Million range?  With Fielder signed, I think his presence would potentially alter the attendance by 8,000-10,000 fans per game to justify his salary (not to mention merchandise and television ratings).  With a 3-4-5 lineup of Bautista, Fielder and Lawrie, I could see 120 HR’S and 350 RBI combined each year.  The best aspect of these guys is that they are patient.  If you add Adam Lind as the #6 hitter with 30 HR 100 RBI capability, then it will become lookout time for the rest of the league.

The Angels signing of Albert Pujols should not cause concern about his production.  Even into his early 40’s, Pujols should be able to hit well given his dedication to personal fitness.  The question is: why wait to move him to DH right now with the amount of 1st baseman they already possess with Trumbo and maybe a return from Morales? It is my belief that aging players should be shipped off to the National League when they can’t post impressive offensive numbers. A good example of this are recent NL pinch hitters Jason Giambi and Matt Stairs making a living off pinch such roles after failing as DH’s late into their careers.  If the AL teams persist in signing aging players past their prime for the DH role, then I believe they will struggle.  Vlad Guerrero and Johnny Damon would be perfect for an NL team at this stage of their respective careers considering this rationale.

So whatever players are ultimately signed by each team from this point forward or already have signed, whichever AL teams have the best Designated Hitters in the league for the 2012 season will likely have the best shot at winning the AL Pennant.

 

*** Thank you to our Guest Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com*** 

 

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Major League Baseball Needs to Adopt An Amnesty Clause

Wednesday December 28, 2011



Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The amnesty clause has received a great deal of attention in the National Basketball Association, as it became a new provision in the new collective bargaining system. The amnesty clause allows a team to terminate a player’s contract, though it comes with certain conditions and restrictions.

First of all, if a player is amnestied, his contract doesn’t go against the salary cap. As a result, players like Chauncey Billups, Travis Outlaw, and others with large contracts, were amnestied. However, only one player per team can be amnestied. When this occurs, he goes to the waiver wire, and teams can proceed to bid for his services.

An amnesty clause would help many MLB teams lower their financial deficits. It might not make players happy, but business is business, and in many cases an amnesty clause is very much-needed.

The amnesty clause not only helps a team clear financial deficit. It can also play a huge role for a team that needs to acquire just one small missing piece in the quest for a championship. Without a doubt, if an amnesty clause is put into place, there will be some talented players available on the waiver wire.  It will be enjoyable for fans to follow the player movement. New players could change the look of different teams. A new available player could take a team to the playoffs. He can help his new team succeed.  Having an amnesty clause in place could prove to be very beneficial to all teams involved, financially and in competitive balance.

Currently Major League Baseball  has no form of amnesty clause in place. Even so, let’s take the time today to project if it was. Here is a look of each MLB team if an amnesty clause was in effect in Major League Baseball.

Boston Red Sox

The Victim: John Lackey

He had the Boston Red Sox record for the highest earned run average in at least 150 innings in 2011. He is getting paid over $15 million each season. He posted 12 horrific losses, and had a 6.41 earned run average, not to mention he is expected to miss the whole 2012 MLB season, due to Tommy John surgery. The unlucky man’s name is John Lackey.

It all started off on December 16, 2009, when John Lackey signed an eye-opening contract worth $82.5 million dollars over 5 years with the Boston Red Sox. He had a disappointing start as he posted a 14-11 record, with a 4.40 ERA in 2010, and topped that off with a 12-12 record, and a 6.41 earned run average in 2011 and the announcement that he would miss the 2012 season with Tommy John surgery.

His contract is up in 2014.

It is clear to say, John Lackey should be a victim of the amnesty clause.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Victim: Mark Teahen

The Blue Jays don’t need this amnesty clause, since they have been considerably lucky and careful with the contracts of their players.

Mark Teahen was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays from the Chicago White sox near the trade deadline in July. He finished off the 2011 season with a .200 average, four homers, and 14 runs batted in. He is getting paid $5.5 million this coming season, which is the last season of his contract.

Teahen, really doesn’t have much of a role in 2012 as part of the Blue Jays organization. As a backup, a player with $5.5 million contract, in a small market team is enough to be amnestied.

New York Yankees

The Victims: Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett

Yes, there can only be only one victim in the clause, but it was too close to call.

Alex Rodriguez had an off-year. He played less than 100 games, and only posted decent stats. Rodriguez is a good player, and would be a Yankee fixture likely for many more years to come. But he has the largest contract in the league, which must be terminated. He is getting paid almost $30 million per season throughout 2017, and is declining, as next season he will turn 37-years-old.

The Yankees can get much better pieces with the large contract he has.

A.J. Burnett has come off another terrible season, and has shown no signs of getting better. He is receiving about $16.5 million per year throughout the 2013 season, and has given the Yankees nothing but trouble. For the past two seasons, he posted an earned run average above five, and the Yankees would have no reason in the world not to terminate his contract if they had a choice.

Baltimore Orioles

The Victim: Brian Roberts

This was an easy one. Brian Roberts’ season was filled with injuries, and his bat is going into decline. Despite Roberts’ speed and strong defense, overall a .221 average, three homers, and only six steals, do not justify his large contract.

Brian Roberts has $10 million per year remaining on his contract through to the 2013 season. As he gets older and continues his decline, the former all-star’s playing days are nearing an end. With a large contract, it is clear that Roberts would be amnestied if the team had the choice.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Victims: No One

I’ll be honest here, the Tampa Bay Rays have been extremely lucky. The Rays have a terrific team, even as a small market team, and their players played very well during the past season. In fact, the Rays aren’t even paying very high salaries to any players, with the largest salary they have being around $7 million, which is going to James Shields, who was a contender for the Cy Young award last year.

Chicago White Sox

The Victim: Adam Dunn

Adam Dunn, is getting paid $15 million per season through 2014, yet he did not exhibit any valuable skills during his first season in Chicago. His power was barely existent, his average barely got past the .150 mark, and his defensive skills are negligible. Even though the White Sox have Jake Peavy, and Alex Rios, who aren’t worthy of their contracts, they are still playable.

Adam Dunn is just horrible. He is not a useful piece at this point in the White Sox puzzle.

Cleveland Indians

The Victim: Travis Hafner

Travis Hafner has been a nice contributor in previous seasons, but he isn’t worthy of his whopping $13 million per year contract.

In 94 games last season, Hafner posted 13 homers, and a decent .280 average. Hafner is still a good player, although he is not the same player as the 2005 season Hafner, or the 2006 season Hafner where he was contending for the MVP award. Hafner remains a clutch player and positive influence in the dugout, but his contract is slightly high for an aging 34-year-old.

Kansas City Royals

The Victim: No One

The Royals’ team is filled with youth, and cheap pieces. The Royals contracts aren’t very bad as a whole. Their main star, Joakim Soria, had a slumping season last year. Since his contract is made up entirely of options, there is no reason in the world to amnesty him. Also Soria is still an elite player. The Kansas City Royals are looking at some great youth coming up to the big leagues, and own arguably the best farm system in the league.

Detroit Tigers

The Victim: Brandon Inge

Brandon Inge is a clear victim. $5.5 million in salary makes him a clear candidate for amnesty, while his batting average didn’t hit the .200 point, and he only had three homers last season. Despite his strong defensive side, and being a piece to the team, he’d be dropped.

The Tigers, remain a successful team, with large contracts, yet none deserve to be terminated. In the averaged Detroit market, $5.5 million for a player who has no offensive side is a clear victim for the amnesty clause.

Minnesota Twins

The Victim: Joe Mauer

Yes, this is the same Joe Mauer who won MVP a few years ago.  But does he really deserve $23 million annually?

The answer to that question is no. Mauer had an unexpected downfall in the 2011 season, where he only played 82 games, batted .287 (36 points less than his career average), and hit only three homers. His plagued season earns him the amnesty spot. He isn’t consistent on the field, nor is he healthy. No one here can argue $23 million is well deserved at this point.  Too much risk for us.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Victim: Vernon Wells

When we hear the name Vernon Wells, the thoughts are apparent: a once powerful bat, with a whopping contract. Wells was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the last offseason for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Napoli had an outstanding breakout season while Vernon Wells just proved he can’t hit a ground ball through the middle.

Wells has a well-known name. He is a three-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and had a nice batting average once upon a time. When a person looks at his whopping contract, the jaws are widened, and the name will get cut off the list with amnesty.  If only it were that simple for the Angels.

Seattle Mariners

The Victim: Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki had a horrific 2011 season despite his 40 stolen bases, which is a mere luxury for the team considering Chone Figgins, and various other sources of speed on the team. The Mariners would be quick to amnesty Ichiro, because his bat is slumping, average is down, he has no power, and speed in itself isn’t worth $17 million a year.

Texas Rangers

The Victim: No One

The Rangers do not have many problems with contracts, and have none worth the amnesty clause. They really need little work with their team, and are only a little step away from winning their rings, which they almost got each of the last two years.

Oakland Athletics

The Victim: Brian Fuentes

The Athletics are a small market team, but received little help from the closer who had absolutely no luck last year, which resulted in eight losses on his record. Brian Fuentes in actually doesn’t deserve to be amnestied, considering he had a decent 3.70 earned run average. Fuentes is set to earn $5.5 million this year.

With the contract being large for a small market team, and his unsuccessful 2-8 record, they would cut him in a second.

New York Mets

The Victim: Jason Bay

The Mets are plagued with their high, unsuccessful payroll, and with often injured Johan Santana and Jason Bay. There is a lot to say about Bay, as he was signed for a whopping $16 million per year, failed to reach the .250 batting average mark, and didn’t even provide a power bat, as he posted only 12 homers during the 2011 season.

Johan Santana, can also be a likely victim. Santana, is going to get paid a whopping $24 million next year, and still might be plagued with his constant injuries. Santana has lost a great deal of time due to injuries, although he still has a nice chance to come back with a successful future in a Mets uniform. Bay though is a lost case in my estimation, and the Mets without amnesty would need to suffer with him throughout the 2013 season.

Florida Marlins

The Victim: Ricky Nolasco

The Marlins have a new team, a new star, an above average pitcher in Mark Buehrle, and some depth adding to it.

Ricky Nolasco posted a horrific 4.67 earned run average last year, and had 12 losses. This could result in an amnesty clause cut. Nolasco’s contract isn’t very pretty, as he still has a remaining $20.5 million through the next two seasons.

Nolasco is still a decent piece, and would be picked up by a team, for reasonable money.  He has good skills, but his stats ruin his chances of being worth a big contract in the Major League Baseball market.

Washington Nationals

The Victim: Jayson Werth

The Nationals have an up-and-coming team. They have Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, some nice depth, given their current roster, and of course, the newly acquired Gio Gonzales. However, Jayson Werth is a failure, and is set to receive $116 million over the next six years.

Jayson Werth had a horrific season in 2011, giving the Nationals troubles all season long. Werth posted 20 homers last year, but only had a .232 average, as he showed similar symptoms of slumping power hitting, as did Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and several others.

With an amnesty clause, the Nationals would cut Werth with a blink. Werth had a terrible season, and didn’t satisfy any of the Nationals needs.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Victim: Joe Blanton

The Philadelphia Phillies have an All-Star rotation, and Joe Blanton just doesn’t make the cut. Joe Blanton, had an injury-plagued season in 2011, and Vance Worley took his spot, and was extremely successful. Rookie Vance Worley unexpectedly posted eleven wins, a 3.01 earned run average, and earned a spot in the rotation.

With Joe Blanton slumping and barely playing last season, his $8.5 million contract coming into the bank in 2012, he is a clear cut for the Phillies.

Atlanta Braves

The Victim: No One

There’s really is no one to choose from the team. The Braves, had a good season, and their players succeeded greatly. Derek Lowe was dealt, Chipper Jones was an All-Star, and Dan Uggla had a late season surge. There is no one left. Their team is set, if only there was an amnesty to cut Derek Lowe’s remaining $10 million dollar contract.

Cincinnati Reds

The Victim: Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen had his time. The Reds are going to pay Rolen $6.5 million next year, while he only posted a .242 batting average. The Reds are clear to cut him despite his attitude as a great teammate, and his decent glove.

Bronson Arroyo is another candidate, though his season was a really big slump. For some reason, the feeling inside me tells that he will have a nice season next year.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Victim: Randy Wolf

The Wolf is out of the house. Wolf had a nice season last year, but can the 35-year-old continue his winning ways?

Wolf will be receiving $9.5 million next year, and the hopes are pretty low him. Not many believe he will be worthy of $9.5 million, including the Brewers. Soon enough, he will be the victim of amnesty clause.

Houston Astros

The Victim: Carlos Lee

Unfortunately for the Houston Astros, with all honesty, their team is horrific.  So horrific that Carlos Lee is their star.

Carlos Lee is set to receive a whopping $19 million a year, and he is expected to have a similar year to this past year, which was 18 homers, a .275 batting average, and 94 runs batted in. Despite his decent stats, the $19 million really hurts.  The Astros wouldn’t mind oto cut Lee in a second, if the amnesty clause rule was in effect.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Victim: No One

Did anyone realize the Pittsburgh Pirates payroll is only $10 million more dollars than Alex Rodriguez’s contract?

Yep, it’s $42 million this coming season, and they have no immediate victims worth using the amnesty clause. They aren’t even paying a single player more than $5.5 million. That is insanity in this day and age.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Victim: No One

The Cardinals players as a whole were extremely successful this year. There was Lance Berkman, who coming off a slumping season broke out in 2011, with a 30 homer, .300 batting average season. Kyle Lohse had a surprising 3.39 earned run average, and 14 deserving wins. The Cards are in good shape going into 2012.

Chicago Cubs

The Victim: Alfonso Soriano

If only a team can use the amnesty clause an unlimited amount of times. The Chicago Cubs have Alfonso Soriano, who is receiving $18 million per season throughout 2014. They also have the clubhouse hell known as Carlos Zambrano.

Alfonso Soriano makes the cut.  The 35-year-old enjoyed a nice power season last year, as he posted 26 homers, though his .244 average makes him a clear choice for the cut. The seven time All-Star is on a downfall, and he would be the Cubs choice if there was an amnesty clause rule.

San Francisco Giants

The Victim: Barry Zito

The San Francisco Giants, have a strong rotation, and similar to the situation the Phillies had with Joe Blanton, the Giants have a decision to make with Barry Zito.

Barry Zito has $39 million remaining on his contract for the next two years.  His injury-plagued season may cause him to be lost, and stuck with no spot. Replacing Barry Zito in the rotation was Ryan Vogelsong in 2011, who had a 13-7 win to loss record, and a 2.71 earned run average. Zito is now working in Triple-A after suffering from two hectic injuries in the 2011 season.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Victim: No One

The Diamondbacks had a whopping breakout season last year, and have almost no financial issues either. They have a clear path to be successful in the upcoming years.  As their total payroll is only $56 million, there is no reason to cut anyone at the moment (especially since Joe Saunders is off the roster).

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Victim: Juan Uribe
The Los Angeles Dodgers are completely plagued by financial difficulties. Frank McCourt gives the team financial chills, and as a result the player who would be cut is Juan Uribe.

Juan Uribe is a terrible batter at the moment. After playing 77 games in 2011, he barely hit over .200, and only posted four homers. He has $15 million remaining on his contract, and with those stats, who would want to pay for that?

Colorado Rockies

The Victim: Jorge De La Rosa

After suffering a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, the Rockies would be bound to drop De La Rosa. Jorge De La Rosa had an average season last year despite being injury-plagued and inconsistent.

The last thing Rockies want is another dominant player having injury issues in the 2012 season. With Carlos Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki suffering injuries last, year the last thing the Rockies want is $10 million dollar starter Jorge De La Rosa on the roster, and unable to contribute.  The team needs to free up money for healthy alternatives.

San Diego Padres

The Victim: Jason Bartlett

The San Diego Padres, are financially in no deficit. In 2011 their payroll barely exceeded 45 million dollars, though they wouldn’t hesitate to cut an unneeded player.

Jason Bartlett, is a decent player, though his bat is unworthy of $5.5 million.  He has a nice defensive side, and he has decent speed, though it is difficult to overlook his .245 batting average, and two homers last season.

The 32-year old had a paltry .307 slugging percentage last season, which was an all-time MLB record for the lowest slugging percentage for a player with over 512 at bats in a season.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Jeff on Twitter.***


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Chris Swauger Guest MLB Blog: My Offseason, Part 1

Wednesday December 28, 2011

Chris Swauger-  Guest MLB Blog:  The winter months are an interesting time for a minor league baseball player.  When the season ends in September, we all exchange hugs, handshakes and well-wishes, knowing full well some of us will never see each other again.  It is a very strange feeling and it carries over into the off-season.  Some of us head home to relax and recover from 140 games or more.  Some get ready to showcase their skills in the Arizona Fall League.  Others, like me, sign up to keep playing in foreign countries.  Those of you who have read my previous blogs know about my experiences playing in Panama this fall.  It was a great experience and now I am back home, enjoying family, friends, and the holiday season.

While this is a time to have some fun, take a vacation, learn a new skill, and basically live the good life, it is also a time to become a better player.  There is not nearly as much communication between the organization (front office, coaches, staff, etc.) and players as there is during the season.  Other than an occasional health update, workout/conditioning check-in, or a friendly phone call, players are generally on their own during the winter.  It is the responsibility of the player to prepare himself for the spring and upcoming season.  This is absolutely the way it is supposed to be because we are all grown men and professionals who ultimately SHOULD be responsible for our own careers.  There is no one there every day checking to make sure we get our work in.  No one grabs us for extra early work or a quick film study.  It is on our shoulders to motivate ourselves and to get better every day.  And nothing motivates hungry minor leaguers more than opportunities.

A few weeks ago the MLB’s Winter Meetings took place in Dallas.  It was a crazy few days filled with transactions and speculations for the approaching season.  It was great for baseball.  Sports and social media were filled with reports about baseball, right in the middle of the NFL and NHL seasons and an ending NBA lockout.  The game of baseball and its following is as strong as ever right now and I am proud to be a part of it.  However I imagine that I, along with every other minor league player, watched and read reports coming out of the meetings with a different perspective than most.

When fans hear that their favorite team signed a huge free agent, lost a big-time player, or brokered a blockbuster trade, their emotions run the gamut from extremely excited to overwhelmingly unhappy.  But the players in the minor leagues think differently.  We look at everything positively.  We are trained that way.  It’s the only way to recover from an 0 for 4 or a bad outing.  Everything has to be taken with a shot of optimism.  Everything has to be looked at as an opportunity.  An opportunity to move up or get more playing time if your team loses a player.  An opportunity to make a great first impression if you are changing teams.  An opportunity to compete if your team adds a player.

My coach in college used to say that competition breeds winning.  That is every organization’s ultimate goal.  Win at the big league level.  The minors exist to mold players who can help that cause.  Every player knew this when he signed or learned it very quickly.  We compete on a daily basis against the other team, the game, and ourselves.  I have always felt that playing with other good players has made me better.  When someone new comes into our organization I have always made it a point to get to know them.  They may know something about the game that I don’t.  They may hold the key that unlocks MY potential.  I may be different from other players in that regard, but I think that has helped me and made me better.

I know for a fact that I am NOT different from other players when I say I want to be the someone who steps up when a player leaves our organization.  Be it free agency, a trade, or any other means, when a spot opens up every single player wants to fill it.  Even if it’s a bullpen spot, I am convinced I could get outs.  A chance to showcase my skills is what drives me every day during the season.  And the thought of getting that opportunity, or getting to compete for that opportunity, is what drives me during the off-season.

I genuinely cannot wait for baseball to start again.  I love the downtime and the chance to train and recover in the winter, but I already have the itch for spring training.  There I will be able to give hugs to those guys I left the previous September, and hopefully get to shake hands with someone new.

Follow me on Twitter (@cswag8) if you would like to get a daily perspective and interact with me.

Until next time,

Swags

 

***Chris Swauger (AKA Swags) is an outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals system.  Swags played for the Springfield Cardinals (AA) in 2011.  A regular contributor to MLB reports, Swags provides a behind the scenes look into the life of a professional baseball player in his Guest MLB Blog.  One of the funniest guys we know, these blog entries are a MUST read for every baseball fan! *** 

 

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MLB Book Review “All You Can Be: Dream It, Draw It, Become It!” by Curtis Granderson

Tuesday December 27, 2011

“All You Can Be”:  BY Curtis Granderson

(Triumph Books:  2009)

MLB reports – Virginia Califano (Guest Writer):  My adoration for Curtis Granderson began to develop ever since he suited up the pinstripes. Once he homered in Opening Day against the Red Sox in 2010, I was sold. And ever since then, he has given me more and more reasons to love him – especially after his MVP-worthy 2011 effort. What’s not to like about the guy? He’s a real professional – the epitome of what it means to be a Yankee. He was voted one of the friendliest players in baseball by his fellow ballplayers. He’s friendly, but maybe not if you’re an opposing pitcher. The guy can hit. Like, well. And he’s been known to flash the leather. And okay, maybe I have a little “thing” for him…I mean just look at him. He’s adorable. Gotta love that smile. And he’s so smart. I could listen to him talk or watch him play all day long…

I didn’t really think it was possible to admire Curtis Granderson any more than I did. But I came home yesterday to a package at my door from Brad, the young man behind The King Of Sports Blog of the FanVsFan Network. It was Curtis Granderson’s book, “All You Can Be: Learning & Growing Through Sports.” Brad thought I’d enjoy reviewing it. He was right.

Needless to say, my infatuation with Curtis Granderson has blossomed even further. “All You Can Be” gets two thumbs up from me.

“All You Can Be” is a children’s book written by Curtis Granderson that consists of Granderson’s lessons to the youth. He shares his personal experiences to give the children further reason to listen to his advice. Although I still consider myself a kid, I’m technically an adult, but I still enjoyed this book. I think “All You Can Be” is an inspirational book for people of all ages, even though it was targeted to the youth. The lessons Granderson shares and the values he wants to instill transcend the scope of time.

The book is creatively arranged so that each chapter is a different “inning” in the game of valuable lessons. Inning one is “Have Fun,” followed by, “Choose the Right Friends,” “Play with Passion,” “Be a Leader,” “Value Your Family,” “Be Yourself,” “Listen and Learn,” “Think Positive,” with the 9th inning as “Never Be Satisfied.” On each page front- and-back prior to the start of a new chapter, there is a selected piece of artwork from a talented student of a New York City Public School. These pieces represent the students’ interpretations of their corresponding chapters. A section entitled “Extra Innings: Dream Big!” consists of eight more honorable mention works of art. Placed within the text, Granderson includes personal photographs of his youth that complement the theme of the chapter.

Along with being beautifully arranged, Granderson’s “All You Can Be” is reader-friendly. The 48-page book is easy to read and moves very quickly. The font is big enough that my Grandma read it with ease (and she too enjoyed it). Granderson highlights key ideas throughout the text in red italic fonts. My favorite part was in the chapter “Be Yourself,” where Granderson recalls being self-conscious about his big “clown feet.” How could people have picked on Curtis Granderson in school? It didn’t bother him for long, though. It just created another lesson for him to share with us.

The ideas presented in this book are things kids should hear everywhere: follow the right people, never give up, be confident in yourself, etc. Then why is this book so special? I think it’s because Granderson shares his personal experiences with us. Kids might think, “Yeah, yeah, everyone says that stuff.” But when Curtis Granderson says it, and he proves that it worked for him, we’re all probably more apt to listen. Granderson stressed the fact that although we are all from different backgrounds and are raised in different environments, we all go through the same things in life. That’s why it is important to listen to people, because they’ve been through it, and can help you learn from their experiences. The values may be simple, but they are solid. And they are the values that got Granderson to where he is today – not only in the professional sense, but in the personal sense as well.

I love the fact that Curtis Granderson always wants to give back. I always thought he was nice, but after reading “All You Can Be,” I knew it was no façade. Curtis Granderson is a genuinely compassionate man with solid values, and his words in this book come from the heart. The stories he shares are ones I think we all can relate to. I know I wasn’t always as confident in myself as I am today, but as Granderson assured, through the love of those who care for me, I’ve grown to really believe in myself, just as he has. In a way, it’s somewhat comforting to know that even a guy as seemingly-perfect as Curtis Granderson has dealt with the same things as we have.

Even though this is a children’s book, I think everyone can learn from it. Granderson teaches the young generation what is important, and reminds us older people that adapting those simple ideas makes us grow to all we can think we be, and then keep on growing.

Curtis Granderson’s “All You Can Be” is a simple yet inspirational work. 

And thank you, Curtis my sweet, for all the great work you do both on and off the diamond.

Thank you to Guest Writer Virginia Califano for preparing today’s book review on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Virginia.  

You can also  find Virginia Califano on Twitter (@VirginiaC816).  Feel free to also check out:   http://pinstripepartisan.com or http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com

 

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Interview with Jeremy Barfield: Oakland A’s Prospect Extraordinaire

Monday December 26, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  Second generation ballplayers are all over the major leagues these days.  Strong blood lines and baseball influences help these young men continue their fathers’ legacies.  But some become part of a baseball family and create a strong impact on the game.  That is the case in the Barfield household, as father Jesse and his sons Jeremy and Josh are all active in the baseball world.  Jesse Barfield played from 1981-1992 with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees.  Jesse was a gold glover, all-star and silver slugger during his major league career.  Oldest son Josh plays second base in the Phillies organization.  Now, emerging into the scene is Jeremy Barfield.  The younger brother of Josh, Jeremy is 23-years-old and has recently completed his 4th professional season.  Ironically, Jeremy got his start in Canada, playing for the Vancouver Canadians in 2008 (the country of origin for Jesse’s career).  Originally drafted by the Mets in 2006, Jeremy opted to attend college instead.  The A’s then selected Jeremy in the 8th round of the 2008 draft and he has been climbing the organizational ladder ever since.

Jeremy’s greatest strengths are his cannon for an arm in right field and strong pop at the plate.  Standing 6’5″ and weighing 240 lbs., Jeremy is built like a tank.  He definitely has the physical tools to succeed in the game.  Speaking to him on several occasions, I definitely respect his commitment and focus on baseball.  This is a very grounded young man who has the right perspectives on the game and life in general.  Jeremy Barfield is mature beyond his years and will be knocking on the A’s door very soon.  I talked to Jeremy about growing up as a Barfield, his development and future in the game.  As he continues to develop and refine his baseball skills, I can foresee that the youngest Barfield will quickly become a fan favorite in Oakland.  It will not be long before people approach Jesse Barfield and ask: “Hey…aren’t you Jeremy’s dad?”  

Featured on MLB reports, I am thrilled to present my interview with Jeremy Barfield.  Oakland A’s Outfield Prospect:

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Jeremy.  It is a pleasure to be speaking with you today.  Starting off:  who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Jeremy Barfield:  Ken Griffey Jr. was by far my favorite player.

 

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Jeremy Barfield:  I don’t have a favorite player anymore

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Jeremy Barfield:  In 2008 while in the Northwest League, I hit a game tying grand slam in the bottom of the 9th inning on an 0-2 count.

In 2009 when playing in the Midwest League I had a 3 home run game.  I almost hit 4 but the centerfielder brought it back from over the fence my last at bat.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Jeremy Barfield:  I am setting my sights as high as possible. I want to play in the Major Leagues.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Mets in 2006 and the A’s in 2008?  What made you decide to finally sign with the A’s?

Jeremy Barfield:  I was actually half asleep  and didn’t really understand what happened, but when I came to I was very excited. After not signing in 2006 I made sure that I was going to sign this time around. I knew it was a great situation with Oakland since they rely so much on homegrown talent.

 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Jeremy Barfield:  My throwing arm and that I have a high rate of contact at the plate.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Jeremy Barfield:  I want to be more consistent with my swing. More consistency means more power.

 

MLB reports:  How do home runs and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these three items changing over time and to what degree?

Jeremy Barfield:  I don’t go up to the plate looking to walk. Home runs are great but it’s all about production. Michael Young is a prime example of that. I’m sure as I get older I’ll hit more home runs and I’m not concerned about walks. Those come with a good hitting approach.

 

MLB reports:  How much of an influence was your dad on you growing up? What did you learn from your dad that has shaped you as a baseball player?

Jeremy Barfield:  My dad was instrumental for me in becoming the player I am today. And the real question you should be asking is what DIDN’T I learn from my dad. He taught me everything I know.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Jeremy Barfield:  Hopefully within the next year or two. I need to be consistent- that’s all.

 

MLB reports:  If you were not playing professional baseball, you would be ____________

Jeremy Barfield:  Working for a graphic design company.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun away from the ballpark?

Jeremy Barfield:  Play video games and watch movies.

 

MLB reports:  Which of your teammates are you closest with – any good stories?

Jeremy Barfield:  My roommate LHP Trey Barham. Our love for late night Whataburger is unmatched.

 

MLB reports:  How close are you with your brother Josh?  Is there a good healthy baseball rivalry going?

Jeremy Barfield:  Very close. We live together in the offseason. Since we’re so different as ballplayers, we don’t have much of a rivalry going.

 

MLB reports:  Given that your dad was a successful major league player- do you find that you have added pressure to prove yourself?  Tell us your experiences of being a 2nd generation baseball player.

Jeremy Barfield:  When I was younger, people used to say I was overrated and that my dad was the only reason I was playing. I just let my play on the field stop all that nonsense. They quickly realized that my talent on the field was for real.

 

MLB reports:  Final thought:  When fans think of the name Jeremy Barfield, what images do you want them to associate you with?

Jeremy Barfield:  Trendsetter extraordinaire!

 

Thank you to Jeremy Barfield for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Jeremy.  

You can also  find Jeremy Barfield on Twitter (@Baseclogger).  He may be a MLB prospect extraordinaire, but yes- he does answer back!

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Howard Megdal Interview: Author of The Baseball Talmud and Wilpon’s Folly

Sunday December 25, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  I had the opportunity this week to post on our site  my review of the Howard Megdal classic baseball book, “The Baseball Talmud”.  Today, MLB reports presents my interview with the baseball author himself, Howard Megdal.  We discuss many aspects of Howard’s life- from the process of writing “The Baseball Talmud” to a look to his recently released book “Wilpon’s Folly”.  I am looking to forward to getting my hands on his third book and learning Howard’s take on the Wilpon family and state of the Mets.  If “Wilpon’s Folly” is anything like his previous works, Howard will have another winner on his hands. 

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with baseball author, Howard Megdal

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

MLB reports:  Welcome back to MLB reports Howard.  Thank you for taking the time for us today to talk about your work.  It was a pleasure to read the Baseball Talmud, your first book which I recently reviewed on our site.  How long did it take you to research and write the book?

Howard Megdal:  Overall, it took over a year. But I’d been thinking about these questions since middle childhood.

 

MLB reports:  What would possess you to pick such an expansive topic for your first ever book?

Howard Megdal:  Well, it was a perfect marriage of my obsessions with baseball and Jewish culture. And I thought it was a book that needed to be out there, but wasn’t.

 

MLB reports:  Were you worried on being typecast as a “Jewish Baseball Writer” by writing the Baseball Talmud?

Howard Megdal:  Not at all. I knew I had many more books in me on various topics.

 

MLB reports:  Favorite Jewish baseball player growing up?

Howard Megdal:  That’s hard, because there was a bit of a dearth as I grew up. By high school, definitely Shawn Green.

 

MLB reports:  After the book was published, did you have any Jewish players approach you to discuss the book?

Howard Megdal:  Well, I’d spoken to many of them during the publishing. But one of the most rewarding experiences I had was when the family of Lefty Weinert came to a book signing to discuss his career.

 

MLB reports:  Can we expect a sequel or follow-up to The Baseball Talmud?

Howard Megdal:  An excellent question- I am certainly open to updating it.

 

MLB reports:  What did you expect The Baseball Talmud would be like when you originally conceived the book and how did it differ once you started to write it?

Howard Megdal:  To be honest, this one stayed true to my vision of it from the very start.

 

MLB reports:  With the release of Wilpon’s Folly- you are slowly becoming a Mets-only writer (after the release of Taking the Field). Fair assessment?

Howard Megdal:  No, I don’t think so. For the same reasons that I didn’t worry about becoming a Jewish-only writer after Baseball Talmud, I am sure topics will take me in many different directions.

 

MLB reports:  After Taking the Field, why write Wilpon’s Folly now?  Did you consider other baseball topics for your third book?

Howard Megdal:  Well, Bloomsbury approached me, because my reporting was addressing the topic in a broader way than most of the other coverage out there. And I agreed that people needed a broader context for what was happening, and what will happen.

 

MLB reports:  Tell us about Wilpon’s Folly- what kind of book is it and what should readers expect when reading it?

Howard Megdal:  It’s a story of huge sums being handled by flawed people, and the ramifications reaching far wider than anyone could have anticipated.

 

MLB reports:  Have the Mets contacted you in any way to discuss Wilpon’s Folly?

Howard Megdal:  Obviously, I spoke to them while writing the book. But no, all I’ve heard is through the New York Post.

 

MLB reports:  What do you think of the Wilpon family?

Howard Megdal:  I think they have suffered a public fall that no one should take any pleasure from, and I wonder how hard life is going to get for them.

 

MLB reports:  What is the future of the Mets organization?  Can the team win with the Wilpons at the helm?

Howard Megdal:  No, they very likely cannot. The future is bright under different ownership, since it is extremely difficult for a New York baseball team not to be immensely profitable. But as long as ownership needs to divert all funds to simple financial survival, a long-term plan is practically impossible.

 

MLB reports:  What is your schedule going to be looking like with the release of the new book?

Howard Megdal:  Same as before: five columns a week for Capital New York, regular writing for the LoHud Mets Blog, MLB Trade Rumors and other outlets. Freelance pieces whenever inspiration strikes. Spending time with my wife and young daughter. Busy, but good.

 

MLB reports:  What is the next project for Howard Megdal?  Can we expect a baseball book per year from you?

Howard Megdal:  An excellent question. Need to talk to my agent and settle on a next book.

 

MLB reports:  If you were to look into a crystal ball, where will you be in 5 years from now Howard?

Howard Megdal:  I hope I’ll be writing, enjoying time with my family, and living essentially as I do now. Wouldn’t want to change a thing.

 

MLB reports:  Last question:  final thoughts for your fans?

Howard Megdal:  Thank you so much. I am gratified that people enjoy reading what I write.

 

 

***A special thank you to Howard Megdal for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  You can follow Howard on Twitter and click here for Howard’s website.***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Ask the Reports: Sunday December 25th

Sunday December 25, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  As things stand right now, who wins the divisions and Wild Cards from AL/NL in 2012?  Steve

MLB reports:  It’s not even 2012 and you want me to give you a sneak on predictions?  Sure.  I’m game!  Which MLB teams will make the playoffs in 2012.  I am looking at the crystal ball.  We are going to assume there is still only one Wild Card team per league.  I am finding it a little hazy at this point, but here is what I am seeing:

American League:

East:  Tampa Bay Rays:  Still the cream of the east.  Nobody is touching that pitching staff, led by David Price, James Shields and company.  The Rays could still add a bat or two before the season starts.  If pitching is king, the Rays are royalty.

Central: Detroit Tigers.  The class of the division and this one isn’t even close.  Justin Verlander. Miguel CabreraVictor MartinezAlex Avila.  Full seasons of Doug Fister and Delmon Young.  MLB should just hand them the division title right now and save everyone else the trouble.  It is a great time to be a Tigers fan.

West:  Houston Astros (just kidding…they don’t get their chance until 2013).  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Surprised?  Me too.  Most would expect me to say the Rangers.  But with the Angels pitching and offense bulked up by Albert Pujols, the Angels get my vote.  Jeff WeaverC.J. WilsonDan HarenPeter Bourjos.  I see where the Angels are headed and they have the horses now to take the West.  Their pitching is still stellar and with all that offense that is coming….a miracle will happen in Anaheim in 2012.

Wild Card:  Texas Rangers.  The AL West will go down to the last day of the season likely.  With that offense led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli…Texas will be tough to beat.  The difference will be pitching.  Sure they have Yu Darvish.  But I don’t think he will be enough to get the AL West title.  But it will still get Texas into the playoffs again.

National League:

East:  Philadelphia Phillies.  Yes Ryan Howard is out for some time.  Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are getting older.  But Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels equates to an automatic division title.  Book it.

Central:  Cincinnati Reds:  My pick for the second straight year.  With the Brewers and Cardinals both losing key parts, it is time for the Reds to shine.  A pitching staff led by Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto. The dangerous offensive weapons of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay BruceDevin Mesoraco becoming the full-time catcher.  2012 will be a bright year for the Reds.

West: Arizona Diamondbacks.  No longer a surprise, the Dbacks are loaded to make another strong run in 2012.  On top of the returning team, Trevor Cahill will be a strong addition.  Kirk Gibson has a nice mix of offense, defense, starting pitchers and a deep pen.  The Dbacks are the team to beat in 2012.

Wild Card:  St. Louis Cardinals.  The 2011 World Series champions are back for more.  While the loss of Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa will be devastating, Dave Duncan returns as the pitching coach.  Carlos Beltran should pick some of the offensive slack, plus Adam Wainwright will be back from injury.  With Wainwright, Carpenter and Garcia leading the rotation, the Cards should make the postseason.

Q:  (a)  Exactly how does the “bidding”, say for Yu Darvish work?  Where’s that $54 million go towards?

(b)  How will Fielder (likely) and Pujols leaving the NL Central affect the division?   Lee

MLB reports:  A two-part question for you today Lee, nicely done! (a)  The Darvish posting fee ($51.7 million) goes to his former Japanese team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters as a transfer fee.  All MLB teams had a window in which to submit a bid for the rights to negotiate with Darvish.  In that time, the Rangers submitted the highest bid.  The Ham Fighters did not know the team, only the winning bid.  Now the Rangers have 30 days to sign Darvish to a contract.  If Darvish signs, the Ham Fighters keep the $51.7 million.  If no contract, Darvish goes back to Japan for next year and can be re-posted in 2013.  Expect Darvish though to sign with Texas and the Ham Fighters to keep the posting fee. 

Now on to part 2 of your question.  You are correct in your estimation, as Prince Fielder is likely to join Albert Pujols and leave the NL Central.  The departures of the two stars means that the NL Central crown is up for grabs.  As per my earlier answer, the Reds are now the heavy favorites to win the Central.  The Cards will still be in it, as the return of Wainwright will drastically help the team.  But nobody can know how the team will play without Pujols and its former manager, Tony La Russa.  The Brewers could be in big trouble, especially if Ryan Braun is lost for any lengthy period of time.  Prince Fielder did not get enough credit for the success of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Now the team will have a reality check when he is gone in 2012.

 

 Q:  As of today, what are the top-5 rotations in MLB?  Fredy

MLB reports:  A great…great…great question.  What a fantastic discussion point and source of debate.  With all the cries about the lack of pitching in baseball, there are some fantastic rotations out there.  Now, with trades and free agent signings, this list could change.  But as of today, here are my top rotations in baseball (in order):

1)  Tampa Bay Rays:  Some teams may have a better 1-2-3 punch.  But for overall depth and quality, the Rays are the class of baseball.  David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson can run with the best of them.  Then add Matt Moore, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann into the equation and you have baseball’s best rotation.  With even more good young pitchers coming through the minors, the Rays have an embarrassment of riches.  A trade could still come through the pipe, but even still, the Rays are my selection.

2)  Philadelphia Phillies:  Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are the most devastating top-2 starters I have ever watched in my life.  They have the chance of being one of the best duos of all time, and that is saying a lot.  Cole Hamels could be an ace for many other teams and is playing for his next big pay-day.  Vance Worley had a solid 2011 campaign and should do much of the same this year for the Phillies.  The 5th job will likely be between Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton, unless another move is made.  The Phillies may not be the most complete team in baseball, but they certainly have one of the top rotations in the game.

3)  San Francisco Giants:  This team does not require much explanation.  Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison BumgarnerRyan Vogelsong and Barry Zito to round out the squad.  You would have a very difficult time finding a better top-3 when they are on.  Cain is one of my personal favorites and one of the most underrated players in the game in my estimation.

4)  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:  My pick to win the AL West and a big reason is this staff.  Jeff Weaver and Dan Haren are the foundation of the team.  C.J. Wilson should be a great #3 on a team where he will not be expected to be the ace.   Between Ervin Santana, Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards, Mike Scoscia should be able to fill in the rest of his rotation. 

5)  Atlanta Braves:  I struggled with this one.  I was thinking Cards, Reds and even the Nationals.  While each of those teams had some top guns, it was their lack of depth that made them fall of the list.  The Braves are my pick for having strong pitchers, but just the best depth in the rotations that were left.  Tim Hudson.  Jair Jurrjens (if not traded).  Tommy Hanson (if healthy).  Brandon BeachyMike Minor.  Randall Delgaldo.  Julio Teheran.  Just having Teheran alone shoots this rotation up the list.  They may not be the flashiest, but the Braves have a choice of starting pitchers that other teams just drool over.

Q:  Will Ubaldo Jimenez regain his 2010 first half form?  David

MLB reports:  Is there a bigger source of frustration in baseball?  The Ubaldo from 2011 looked nothing like the recent Ubaldo we have come to know.  He will be turning 28 in January (in Dominican years) and should just be entering the prime of his career.  I will tell you my gut feeling…and Cleveland fans, you will not like it.  I have seen this pattern too many times over the years.  Occasionally a pitcher goes through a dead-arm period, where their numbers and performance all of a sudden drops drastically.  Through rest and a change in mechanics, the form can return.  But that is the exception to the rule.  Usually when a decline like Ubaldo’s appears, it means that there is an injury in hiding.  I will be very surprised if Ubaldo regains his form overnight.  I am looking at a crystal ball and my sense is a visit to Dr. Andrews in his future.  This is a gut feeling, but a very strong one.  It could be heartburn, but I doubt it.

 

Q:  Tim Wheeler and Seth Smith for Prado or Jurrjens? Joe

MLB reports:  Its a possibility, but I don’t see it happening.  Wheeler is the real deal and I can’t see the Rockies moving him at this point.  Smith is a useful role player and could blossom into a steady every day player, but I have my doubts.  Between Jurrjens and Prado, I take Jurrjens if I’m the Rockies.  A great pitcher, but has issues staying healthy.  The key component in this trade is Wheeler.  The former 1st round pick is highly rated and was terrific last season with 33 home runs in AA.  Rockies say no, Braves say yes.  But if it happens, it would be for Jurrjens also.  Martin Prado is another useful player, but not a star and worth the cost of a top prospect.

 

Q: Which team makes the biggest jump in the ‘Power Rankings’ if they sign Fielder?  Bleacher GM

MLB reports:  Another great question!  Prince Fielder will instantly help any team that signs him.  But who will make the biggest jump…now that is a different story.  I could see the Jays being stronger playoff contenders with him.  The Rangers would be even that much more dangerous.  But the biggest jumps would be based on a team with potential that needs to go the next level.  My picks in order would be the Nationals, Mariners and Orioles.  With Prince on board, I could see the Nats finally climbing from potential to contenders.  The Mariners and Orioles would go from the basement to respectability overnight.  Yes, Prince has that kind of power and abilities to make everyone else around him better.  But the Nationals get my vote, given their emerging pitching staff and great young hitters.  If the Nats sign Prince, we could be looking at the Nats in the playoffs by 2013.   The Mariners are still far too behind on offense to become contenders and the Orioles are still emerging and integrating as a young team.  The Mariners get the edge based on their pitching staff.  But imagine Prince hitting between Harper and Zimmerman.  Just the thought gets me very excited!

 

Final Question of the day: Here’s a good question, what was the one moment that made you realize baseball was your niche?  Eric

MLB reports:  I needed a week to ponder this one Eric.  One of the most insightful and deep questions ever presented to me.  I always knew that I had a deep love for baseball.  I have read about the game and its players and studied the sport for most of life.  I have always enjoyed writing about baseball, but never knew where it would be headed.  In conducting interviews, I felt a good connection to the game and the people associated with it.  But the true point when I knew it was my calling- now that is a different story. I would have to say when a leading baseball writer for a well-known baseball publication told me that he reads the site regularly and enjoys my work, that was the instance I felt that I had something special.  When a writer of his caliber and experience was quoting my work and praising it, I literally had goosebumps.  That was the defining moment in my career.  From there, when I get emails and messages from baseball fans all over the world- it makes all the hard work very gratifying.  I enjoy touching people’s lives and being able to deliver to them positive information and analysis on the game of baseball.  Finding the right writers who had the same principles, work ethic and ideas was the key to the growth of the site.  I definitely love what I do.  I believe that people lead busy lives and time is precious.  By people taking the time out of their lives to read my work, I have an obligation to provide them with the best baseball writing that I can deliver.  It is an honor that I get to interact with as many baseball fans that I do as part of my role as a Baseball Writer.  It is the greatest game on the planet and I am proud to be able to make contributions to baseball through my writing.  Thank you for the question!

 

ARCHIVE:  Click here for Past Issues of Ask the Reports

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

MLB Ballpark Traditions: National League

Sunday December 25, 2011



Doug Booth-  Guest Baseball Writer:  The entire baseball community is looking forward to the ‘New Marlins Ballpark’ in 2012.  This new opening will give some of extreme ballpark chasers a chance to tack another ballpark to their viewing history.  I will be attending the opening of this Ballpark in April and that will make it 35 Major League Stadiums for me, 5 that are defunct and this park in Miami will help me re-establish the 30 current MLB Parks.  We all assume that Oakland will have a new baseball park eventually so I will have a few years before attending a new baseball park again.  These traditions only help the folklore of baseball.  I believe it helps distinguish the sport from the other major sports leagues.  

Here are the National League Parks Traditions:

Wrigley Field

1.  7TH inning stretch-made famous by Harry Caray and kept up by guests now.

2.  They started throwing the ‘opposition’s’ home runs back onto the field and have not stopped even though it is illegal to throw the baseballs back on the field.

3.  They have their own song “go Cubs go” which they play after every win.

4.  Of course they have the curse of the ‘BILLY GOAT’ and also have not won a World Series in 103 years.

Minute Maid Park

 1. They have a train that goes from side to side whenever they hit a homer.

 2. They play the song “Stars at Night” right after 7th inning stretch

 3. They play all their games indoors and only open up the roof when the park is cleared.

Miller Park

1. They do 2 really cool waves. One is a reverse wave where the goes clockwise all around the ballpark and then change direction. The other one they do is a slow motion wave which is hilarious.

2. They have the sausage race!!!

3. The sing the song “Over The Barrell” after “Take me out to the ballgame”.

4. ‘Bernie Brewer, (Brewers mascot) goes down the slide in upper left field bleachers-and has recently started throwing t-shirts from there.

5. They give out fridges for who has the best-”Tailgate Party”.

Busch Stadium

1.  Easily the most respectful fans in baseball.

2.  They cheered the 2004 Boston Red Sox even when they lost the World Series, so they are classy.

PNC Park

1.  They have the pierogi races.

2. Between every inning they have text messages posted on-screen from people.

3. They have one of the coolest beginnings where they have a pirate ship full of pirates and they take over the opposing team’s ship on the scoreboard.

Great American Ball Park

1. They have fireworks that explode from the ship in center-field when there is a home run.

2. The Reds Museum is the best “Hall Of Fame” out of all the teams.

Dodger Stadium

1. The beach balls are still being thrown around.

2.  It is routine to show up 4 innings into the game and leave at the 8th inning-Last year I watched a game that lasted only 2 hours and the parking lot was jammed because people had arrived late and did not leave early because the game was so quick. I still love the replay of the ‘KIRK GIBSON’ homer because of all the tail lights in the parking lot that were leaving.

AT&T Park

1. The Kayaker’s in McCovey Cove are fun to watch.

2. The hecklers in center-field always are after the opposing outfielders with this chant’ “What is the matter with (insert player here)? The answer is: “He’s a bum!” They do this all game.

3. They have a Panda Bear now because of Pablo Sandoval-(Kung-Fu Panda.)

4. They chart the splash hits that go into the cove.

Coors Field

1. They sell food and beverages outside the ballpark with their own vendors for a good price.

2. They use the ‘humidor’ to reduce the flight of the baseballs by 8-10%.

Chase Field

1. They sing “Sweet Caroline” like the Boston fans do.

2. They are the only park that plays a second verse of “Take me out to the Ballgame”.

3. They are very fanatical at security about you operating camera/videos so watch out.

Petco Park

1. There is a picnic area where you can watch the game for 5 dollars.

2. They are the most pet-friendly stadium as pets are allowed into the game a lot.

Turner Field

1. ‘The tomahawk chop’ is the worst tradition in baseball, but it is here to stay-routinely sections of people will get up and stand while doing the chop.

2.  Skip Caray and Mark Lemke do the pregame show from the media gondola in center-field every home game.

3. They routinely have ‘concerts’ on weekend night games free of charge and are decent groups. I saw Arrested Development there last year.

Citi Field

1. The ‘BIG APPLE’ still comes out after every homer is hit (unless it is stuck which has happened at Citi Field).

2. There are planes that come over every five minutes–I find this very disrupting to the game and that is why I have the park ranked 11th overall.

Sun Life Stadium coming soon/New Marlins Ballpark in 2012!!

1.  You can buy a parking pass that will work for any home date online-which is convenient.

2. The mascot is always featured on the big screen throwing fake pies at people in the stands who have on opposing gear.

Nationals Park

1. The president’s race is a definite highlight of every game-and one of them always falls flat on their face–usually it is Teddy Roosevelt.

2. They shoot t-shirts into the crowd-that have chili-dogs wrapped up in them–just ask the 20 people or so that were pelted with the contents when they failed to wrap the t-shirts tight enough with the food.

Citzens Bank Ballpark

1. The Phillie Phanatac is always in trouble with the ‘grounds crew’ because he whips around in the ATV.

2. There is about 4,000 S.R.O’S for every game and most hang out in ‘Ashburn’s Alley’.

3. They boo the home players more than any other team including Boston and both NY clubs. That is understandable considering they booed Santa Claus–and cheered when Michael Irvin was knocked unconscious at the old ‘VET’.

4. They have the biggest fine in the league for jumping on the field.

 

 Click here to view  Part 1 of Doug Booth’s Ballpark Traditions feature on MLB reports, with a look at the American League Traditions. 

*** Thank you to our Guest Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com*** 


Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Overcrowded Angels in the Outfield

Saturday December 24th, 2011

Sam Evans: Heading into the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels of U.S.A. of California of Anaheim have six outfielders that will be vying for playing time in the majors. Three of their outfielders have been selected to at least two all-star games, one is the best prospect in baseball, and the forgotten one was their best player last year. Let’s go through these players and decide who will be the starters for the Angels this coming year.

Mike Trout, CF, LF, RF: Trout has been the best prospect in baseball for the last two years, and looks like a sure superstar in the making. He is a true five-tool prospect, and he has been clocked from home to first in a startling 3.75 seconds. This summer,  a scout told Angels AA manager Bill Mosiello, “Maybe this is what Mickey Mantle looked like when he was 18.”

With the Halos in 2011, the 20-year-old Trout hit .220 with five home runs in forty games. He was probably rushed to the majors a little too early, but he impressed players and coaches with his physical abilities.

In 2012, Trout needs consistent playing time at the major league level. If Trout is on the roster, the Angels have no other choice but to play him. If Trout fails in the majors, then they can send him back to the minors. But he needs a fair shot first. That’s why heading into this season, the Angels should have Trout penciled in as their starting right-fielder.

Ryan Langerhans, LF, RF: The Angels signed Langerhans to a minor league contract on Friday. Langerhans has played for the Mariners, Nationals, and Braves in his career. He has never posted great numbers at the major league level and he’s always struggled against right-handed pitchers. However, Langerhans has established a reputation for being a clutch player. He has 26 go ahead hits in his career.

Langerhans should definitely start in AAA. If any of the other outfielders get injured, he is a solid option to call up to the majors temporarily. For right now, he is just simplynot talented enough to compete with the other Angels outfielders for a full-time gig.

Bobby Abreu, LF,RF,DH: Abreu is a solid, consistent player. Still, he is 37-years-old and his level of play has dropped off drastically in the last couple of seasons. In 2012 (his contract year), Abreu is set to make nine million dollars.  That is a lot of coin to pay someone to sit on the bench.

Last year, Abreu hit .253 with 8 homers, 21 stolen bases, and a .353 OBP. Despite his age, Abreu can get on base and is a solid base runner. He can read the pitcher better than anyone else in baseball. Abreu started 108 games as the Angels DH last year, and he played the outfield for only 28 games.

For the upcoming season, Abreu should split time with Mark Trumbo at DH. The Angels might trade Trumbo, who has drawn interest from other clubs. Another scenario that I could see happening is the Angels trading Abreu at the trade deadline. To a team seeking a productive veteran outfielder, Abreu would be the perfect acquisition.

Peter Bourjos, CF: Last year, Bourjos was the Angels most valuable outfielder. Borjous was an above-average hitter who posted a 115 OPS+, and hit 11 triples to lead the American League. However, most of Bourjos’ value is found is his defense. Bourjos was one of the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball last year. He had a 7.5 Ultimate Zone Rating in 2011.

Bourjos should split time in center field with Trout. Even though both Bourjos and Trout are outstanding defensive center-fielders, Bourjos covers more ground and is slightly more valuable. Bourjos needs to play everyday in 2012, and I’d be shocked if Mike Scioscia didn’t have Bourjos as his opening day center fielder.

Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells, RF and LF: Torii Hunter is one of the more fun to watch players in baseball. He is also extremely respected amongst his teammates. Over his career, Hunter has hit .274 with an average of twenty-four homers a year. Hunter is signed through this year, and is set to make $18.5 million dollars.

Vernon Wells is probably the reason why former Angels GM Tony Reagins quit his position (insiders say he was set to be fired but was allowed to resign instead to save face). The Angels traded Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells and the worst contract in baseball last offseason. Vernon Wells is signed through 2014 and due $21.5 million in 2012. That’s only about four million less than Albert Pujols salary in 2012.  Blown away?  I certainly am.

To put it bluntly, Wells is not a very good baseball player anymore. In 2012, Wells hit .218 with 25 homers, but only a .248 OBP. Compared to Hunter’s .281 AVG with 21 homers and a .354 OBP, Wells looks pretty awful.

Hunter and Wells will probably end up seeing the field about the same number of times. That’s not because of their abilities, it’s just because of Well’s contract. Defensively, Wells actually has a slight advantage over the nine-time gold glover Torii Hunter (although most baseball people would choose Hunter).

Overall, the Angels outfield situation is a mess. The Halos have some very talented players, and a trio of overpaid veterans. The Angels outfield logjam gives the team flexibility, with backup solutions in case of injuries or poor play. I would be mildly surprised if the Angels didn’t make a trade before the season. They need to find some bullpen arms and maybe another starter for their rotation. With their plethora of outfielders, they can and should definitely make a trade. It will be more based around what they can get in return. Happy Holidays!

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Interview with Jake Elmore: Arizona Diamondbacks Prospect

Saturday December 24, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  Today on MLB reports we are proud to feature Arizona Diamondbacks Prospect:  Jacob Elmore (Jake).  Originally drafted by the Marlins in 2007, Jake was later drafted and signed with the Diamondbacks in 2008.  Jake just completed his 4th season in the Diamondbacks system, with a 2nd straight year in AA with the Mobile Bay Bears of the Southern League.  During his professional career, Jake has played every position except for outfield.  Yes, he did catch one game and pitched in four games!  Jake’s greatest strengths are his batting eye and speed.  He has shown close to a 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio (career .370 obp) and very good speed (career high 25 stolen bases in 2010 and 15 in 2011).  

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Jake Elmore, Arizona Diamondbacks Prospect:

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MLB reports:  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Jake Elmore:  My favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr. I loved how he played the game with a big smile on his face. He looked like he enjoyed playing baseball more than anyone I have ever witnessed.  Being as great as he was, that was understandable.  His excellence on the field had a great deal with me admiring him as well.

 

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Jake Elmore:  Chipper Jones would be my pick. I admire how he plays the game and his loyalty to his organization. Many players run for the higher paycheck but Chipper is beloved in Atlanta and has always found a way to make it work there. The player I try to model my game after is Brian Roberts. The tough, gritty approach he brings to the table is admirable and he always finds a way to impact a game.

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Jake Elmore:  My proudest accomplishment would be winning the “Big Stick” award at the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction Colorado. This award is given to the player with the highest batting average at the World Series that qualifies with ample at bats. I hit .526 and took home the crown.

 

MLB reports:  Did you fully expect from the start of the draft back in 2008 to sign with the Dbacks?  When was the final decision made in the process to sign with Dbacks?  Any disappointment with being drafted in the 34th round?  What factors led you not to sign with the Marlins back in 2007 when you were originally drafted?

Jake Elmore:  I had no expectation to be drafted in 2008. I was really excited to be drafted at all and feel fortunate to be given the opportunity. I had a really rough time at Arizona State and did not fit in well with that program. I thought there was no way I would be given a shot after the year I had, so when I was taken it brought me back to life and gave me extra motivation. I had no plans to sign with the Marlins after 2007 being such a low pick and a Junior year at Arizona State on the horizon.

 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Jake Elmore:  My greatest skill on the field would be my versatility and knowledge of the game. I feel that me being able to move all over the field and the batting lineup gives me an advantage against other players. I pride myself on being athletic and multi-faceted. The mental aspect of the game is really enhanced as you progress through a system and being able to adjust mentally is a key to success. 

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Jake Elmore:  I would love to improve my power numbers and my stolen base success. I am known as a speedy guy, but know that I have been caught far too many times to be considered a top-notch stolen base threat. Power is something all organizations are looking for and I am striving to improve in that area.

 

MLB reports:  I am very impressed with your displayed ability to get on base during your career.  You have close to a 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio.  How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Jake Elmore:  The ability to get on base is a key to my success as a player and being disciplined at the plate is the key to obp. Over time I hope to maintain this ratio because I do think it is important. Although, I would sacrifice a few strikeouts for a few more home runs in a season.

 

MLB reports:  Long term what position do you see yourself playing?  You have mainly played 2b and ss, but also some 3b, 1b, catcher and pitched!  What’s the story on all these positions played?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?

Jake Elmore:  Well, being versatile is something I take pride in so I make sure all the coaches I play for understand that I am serious about playing different positions. I told the organization I could catch and they laughed and took it in stride. Then when I got the chance to get behind the dish they were surprised that I actually had an idea back there. I caught throughout high school, got recruited as an infielder and catcher, started junior college as a center fielder due to an injury, played both at ASU, and played all the infield positions in pro ball. Still waiting on my first outfield appearance in the pros. As for pitching, I do not pretend to be good in that area but when the game is 17 innings in and our team is out of pitchers….”Jake get loose.” As for my projected position of the future, I would say middle infield is my ticket but the ability to catch can become valuable to my career.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Jake Elmore:  Looking ahead and trying to predict the future can be dangerous and tricky. So… lets jump into the gauntlet. I feel that if I continue to get on base and score runs, playing solid defense and increase my power numbers, I will get a shot in the next few years. 

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

Jake Elmore:  I really enjoy working out. Not necessarily for baseball but for health in general. I enjoy learning how the body functions and why we do the workouts we do. MW3 is a time waster that I enjoy even though I am average at best. Lastly, I have recently started keeping a journal. I figure one day it will be intriguing to look back and remember what was going on at this time in my life.

 

MLB reports:  Have you visited Arizona yet?  How did you enjoy Chase Field?  

Jake Elmore:  Yes I have visited Arizona many times and have always enjoyed my time there. I have been to Chase Field as well. It is immaculate and gives you extra fuel in the tank to make it to the Show.

 

MLB reports:  You just completed your second season in AA ball.  Do you know where the Dbacks likely plan to start you this season?

Jake Elmore:  I have no idea about the organizations plans and there is no need to even speculate. I am doing everything in my control to better myself to prove I am worthy of a promotion.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send out a message to the Dbacks fans, what would it be?

Jake Elmore:  Hopefully I will see you guys soon!

  

Thank you again to Jake Elmore for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Jake.  You can also  find Jake Elmore on Twitter (@JElmo6)

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

My 2012 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot: Blandy’s Picks

Friday December 23rd, 2011

Rob Bland:  According to Baseball-Reference, there are 27 former Major League players eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.  13 of these players are new on the ballot.  Every year only one or two players are inducted, but this year, there should most definitely be more, although it is doubtful that the BBWAA actually induct more than two.  In order to be elected, a player must receive 75% of the total votes.  If a player receives less than 5% of the vote, or if he has gone 15 years without receiving the 75%, he is then taken off the list.

Of the newcomers, there is one player who deserves any attention; however I do not believe that he should ever be elected to the Hall.  After all, the Baseball Hall of Fame is supposed to be the best of the very best.  Career .297/.381/.477 hitter with 4 Gold Glove Awards in a premium position?  Seems like an almost lock to make it.  However, Bernie Williams and his World Series rings was not GREAT.  He was merely very good, on some great teams.  


Of the returnees, only two players received 50% of the votes, where 75% is necessary to be enshrined.

My list of players I would vote for, as well as near-misses are as follows:

Barry Larkin received 62.1% of the votes last year, and will likely be in by 2013.  Larkin played a premium position (shortstop), a 12-time All-Star, 9-time Silver Slugger, 1995 National League MVP, all while playing parts of 19 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.  Seems pretty obvious to me.  YES.

Jack Morris is on the ballot for his 13th time, and I am really not sure how he was able to get 53.5% of the vote in 2011.  Sure, there is something to say about a durable innings-eater with 254 career wins, but upon closer look at his stats, he does not deserve to be in the Hall.  With an ERA+ of 105, a 1.296 WHIP, K/9 under 6, and K/BB of 1.78, he doesn’t scream “elite”, but good pitcher who came up huge in clutch situations.  NO.

Jeff Bagwell is still shrouded in controversy as many members of the media continue to believe he took steroids.  I am a guy who doesn’t believe in the asterisks or the stripping of records for those who did such things.  With a career .948 OPS and 149 OPS+, to go along with 449 home runs in 15 seasons, NL Rookie of the Year in 1991, NL MVP in 1994, there is no way he should be kept out of the Hall.  YES.

Edgar Martinez is a tough case because of the fact that he was predominantly a designated hitter in his career.  Therefore, he added basically zero defensive value over the course of his 18 year career.  However, upon looking at his stats, he more than makes up for it in offensive production.  With a career slash line of .312/.418/.515/.933 and OPS+ of 147, he was one of the best pure hitters of his generation.  He may not have been the most prolific home run hitter, but he mashed doubles in Seattle throughout his career at a very high rate.  YES.

Tim Raines was a great lead-off hitter.  Over 23 seasons, he reached base at a .385 clip, and stole 808 bases.  Between 1981 and 1987, it is hard to imagine a better hitter atop the line-up.  In those 7 seasons, he stole 504 bases, averaging 72 per season, including 90 in 1983.  However, his production (while still good), fell off dramatically at this point of his career.  Because of this, it is tough to vote him in.  NO, although very close.

Larry Walker is one of the all-time greatest Canadian players, and I feel as though this could be extremely biased.  Regardless of the fact that he played in Coors Field in the mid to late 90’s where balls soared out of the stadium at an alarming pace, Walker put up some incredible numbers.  Walker’s OPS+ of 140 with a slash line of .313/.400/.565/.965 is pretty ridiculous.  (OPS+ is adjusted to the hitter’s ballpark, so it shows just how ridiculous he actually was).  The 1997 NL MVP should be the second Canadian in the Hall after Fergie Jenkins.  YES.

Fred McGriff is in his 3rd year of eligibility, only received 17.9% of votes last year.  The Crime Dog was never flashy, but he was a consistent performer year in and year out for his 19 seasons.  Between 1988 and 1994, he never hit under 31 home runs (including 34 HR in 113 games in the strike-shortened 1994 season).  He was consistently a very good player, but unfortunately for him, he was never considered to be an elite first baseman, which is what the Hall of Fame stands for.  NO, but very close.

Mark McGwire.  The most controversial choice on the ballot, is my last selection.  Although he has admitted that he has taken steroids, and has been the hitting coach of 2011 World Series Champs St. Louis Cardinals, many believe he should not be in the Hall.  However, a career .982 OPS and 162 OPS+is enough for me.  The 11-time All-Star hit 583 home runs, and his career 162-game average was 50 home runs.  There is no way I would keep him out of the Hall, but there are many others who will do everything to keep him out.  YES.

The 2012 Hall of Fame class will be more stripped down than my version, with the potential of zero players getting in. Barry Larkin may have a better chance in 2012, due to the fact that he will not be overshadowed by Roberto Alomar, who received the third-most votes of all time to be enshrined in the Hall, with 523.  Stay tuned for the results when they are released.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Blandy on Twitter***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Yu Darvish to Texas: Samurai to Become a Ranger

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sam Evans: On Monday, the Nippon Ham Fighters announced that the Texas Rangers had won the posting fee for 25 year-old pitcher Yu Darvish. The Rangers surrendered a record $51.7 million for the rights to negotiate a contract with Darvish. The Rangers are taking an expensive risk on Darvish, who should be penciled into the top of their rotation.

The Rangers now have thirty days from the signing to work out a contract with Darvish. My guess is the contract will be anywhere from four to six years at $35 to $60 million. That is a lot of money for any team to give to a prospect, but given the Rangers new TV deal, they can certainly afford it.

Over the last five years, Darvish posted a 1.72 ERA and struck out roughly one batter an inning in a league known for its pesky hitters. He quickly became a superstar in Japan, unlike any current American baseball player’s stature. He also led Japan to the 2009 WBC championship.

Yu Darvish is not only a Japanese baseball superstar, he is a pop culture icon as well.He is married to a Japanese actress (although reports indicate the couple is splitting), and he has his own blog called “Thoughts Of Yu”. Added pressure shouldn’t be a problem for Darvish because he has gotten used to it ever since cameras started following him around in high school. Realistically, Darvish shouldn’t have as much trouble with the language barrier as previous Japanese players.

Darvish is 6’5” and weighs only 185 pounds. If he were a traditional teenage prospect, then scouts would claim that he would need to “fill out his frame”. However, he is twenty-five and it’s probably too late for him to develop physically much more. Nonetheless, don’t rule it out. There are 255 Chick-Fil-A restaurants in the state of Texas, and hopefully Carlos Lee has left some wholesome American cuisine for Darvish to enjoy.

Darvish throws a four-seam fastball that sits around 94 MPH. He also throws two types of sliders, a cutter, a curve, and a shuuto. A shuuto is thrown around 90 MPH with movement that propels the ball inward on right-handed hitters. From what I have heard, Darvish is very projectable as a number two MLB starter. However, if he were to add a change-up to his repertoire, I think the Rangers could develop him into an ace. Not to mention, Yu Darvish will have the pitcher behind the greatest change-up of all-time, Greg Maddux and pitching coach, Mike Maddux, to work with throughout the season.  Also team President, Nolan Ryan, know a thing or two about pitching as well.

If Darvish struggles in 2012, it will be because of command, above other things. Japan has built a reputation for a strike zone much larger than the one in the US, and that might be hard for him to get used to. Additionally, going from playing games indoors to under the sweltering Texas sun, wouldn’t an easy transition for anyone.

The Rangers don’t have the strongest rotation compared to other teams, but they definitely have depth. Assuming that Darvish will seamlessly transition to North America, the Rangers rotation will probably include Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, and Derek Holland. Still, this leaves out Alexi Ogando, who was one of the Rangers brightest hurlers from last year.

The Rangers could use Ogando out of the bullpen, like they did effectively in the playoffs. Nevertheless, it would be a smarter decision if they traded one or two of their starters. With top prospect arms Neil Ramirez and Martin Perez hanging around in Triple-A, the Rangers have the depth to trade some of their arms.

A reasonable expectation for Darvish’s 2012 would be 180 IP, 3.50 ERA, and 165 IP. That is pretty impressive for a first-year player in the majors. It is questionable as to whether that is worth the 100+ million that the Rangers will likely shell out, but I believe that the Rangers front office management know what they are doing.

Even if everything doesn’t work out as planned for the Rangers with Darvish, the team is so loaded at every position that they can overcome almost any obstacle. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has led the Rangers to two straight World Series, and the Rangers believe that a Darvish acquisition would help them finally get over the hump. With the best pitching prospect ever to come out of Japan leading the way, there is no reason not to believe that the Rangers won’t finally fulfill their destiny and win it all in 2012.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Interview with Neiko Johnson: Houston Astros Prospect and Future Leadoff Man

Thursday December 22, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  Today on MLB reports we are proud to feature Houston Astros Prospect:  Neiko Johnson.  Joining the Astros organization as a free agent this past year, Neiko started his career in the New York-Penn League, playing for the Tri-City ValleyCats.  Neiko played all over the field in his first season, including outfield, shortstop, second base and third base.  A speedster, Neiko successfully stole 21 bases in 25 attempts, playing in 57 games.  Even more impressively, Neiko had a .397 OBP.  With the ability to get on base and swipe bags in bunches, Neiko has a bright future as a MLB leadoff man.  By taking 41 walks and striking out 37 times, Neiko showed a good eye at the plate.  At the age of 23, we see a bright future for Neiko Johnson as the Astros answer to Tim Raines, Vince Coleman or even Rickey Henderson.  The tools are clearly there for Neiko- now he just needs the time to sharpen his skills and work towards landing in Houston.  Plus having Brandon Phillips as a close friend never hurts.  Phillips plays the game “the right way” and clearly has had a positive influence on Neiko.  The stars are aligned for this young man and we see big things ahead in his future!

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Nieko Johnson, Houston Astros Prospect:

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MLB reports:  You played five seasons for the University of Kentucky.  Tell us about that experience and why you chose Kentucky for your education?

Neiko Johnson:  College was a great experience and I recommend it to all athletes.  I believe college helps a young athlete grow into an adult, learn about themselves and many other parts of life.  I learned how to manage my time and be more efficient in life, as well as becoming mentally stronger.  I chose Kentucky because I wanted to play college for a big D-1 school and the SEC is the best conference in the nation.  So it was an easy choice.

 

MLB reports:  Did you have a favorite player growing up?

Neiko Johnson:  Derek Jeter.

 

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Neiko Johnson:  Brandon Phillips because I am real close friends with him and he has helped lead me down the right path in baseball.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Neiko Johnson:  To become a better player every day and give 110% percent.

 

MLB reports:  You were signed as a free agent by the Astros in June 2011.  Tell us about that process.

Neiko Johnson:  I worked out for the Houston Astros in my hometown Atlanta, GA.  That same day they called back wanting to sign me which was a blessing and I’m very thankful for.

 

MLB reports:  As soon as you signed you were off to Troy to play for the Tri-City ValleyCats.  What the heck is a ValleyCat?

Neiko Johnson:  HAHA honestly I have no idea what a ValleyCat is!  But the fans were awesome and I really enjoyed the environment we played in.

 

MLB reports:  How did you feel going from school to professional baseball?  What was the transition like?

Neiko Johnson:  I felt good going into pro ball.  I was ready because I was mature and knew how to handle myself.  The transition was a bit different because in college most things are taken care of for you such as food, housing, workouts, etc.  In pro ball, you are basically on your own and you have to become a man in the real world.  You have to figure things out as you go along because most things are not taken care of for you like they were in college.

 

MLB reports:  You played all over the field this past season:  including shortstop, third base, second base and outfield.  What position do you see yourself at long-term?

Neiko Johnson:  Whatever position the Astros want me to play is the position I can see myself playing long-term.  I am willing to play anywhere as long as I am in the lineup.

 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Neiko Johnson:  My speed and awareness of the game.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Neiko Johnson:  I wish to improve every facet of my game because I can improve in all areas all the time.

 

MLB reports:  What do you need to do in order to be successful in this game?

Neiko Johnson:  You have to love this game and work hard at it because nothing is given you. You have to earn it!

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Neiko Johnson:  I just need to continue to work hard and stay dedicated to the process.  When the time is right I will eventually make it to the big leagues.

 

MLB reports:  Favorite baseball movie of all-time?

Neiko Johnson:  Major League.

 

MLB reports:  Have you been to Houston yet?  Do you own a cowboy hat and boots?

Neiko Johnson:  HAHA… nope, not a big cowboy guy. But yes, I have been to Houston.  Only once though.  In college we played at Minute Maid Park in a tournament during my senior season.

 

MLB reports:  Final Thoughts?

Neiko Johnson:  Thank you for the opportunity to answer some questions about my life and career.  I will continue to work hard and always keep a good image.

 

Thank you again to Neiko Johnson for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Neiko.  You can also  find Neiko Johnson on Twitter (@ThisIsNJJ)

***The pictures used in today’s feature  were provided by Neiko Johnson from his personal collection***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

“The Baseball Talmud” by Howard Megdal: MLB Book Review

Wednesday December 21, 2011

“THE BASEBALL TALMUD”:  BY HOWARD MEGDAL

(Harper:  2009)

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Happy Hanukkah to one and all!  With today being the first day of Hanukkah, I thought that it would be very appropriate to include some Jewish baseball on MLB reports.  Luckily, I just completed a Jewish-centric baseball book and will be reviewing said book for you today.  One of our favorite baseball authors (are there any other kind), Howard Megdal, prepared one of the preeminent Jewish baseball books on the market today.  Howard’s first baseball book is titled:  “The Baseball Talmud”.

You will recall Megdal’s work from our review of his 2nd effort, “Taking the Field:  A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves.”  While “Taking the Field” was centered on Howard’s efforts to campaign to run and fix the New York Mets, “The Baseball Talmud” comes from a very different perspective.  “The Baseball Talmud” is essentially a baseball history piece.  While some players’ names would be familiar to the readers (depending on your age and baseball knowledge), reading “The Baseball Talmud” will prove to be an educational experience for most baseball fans who pick up to read this book.  The Talmud (in case you are not familiar with the term) is a collection of ancient rabbinic writings on Jewish law and tradition.  Commentary and interpretations are the key components of the Talmud.  Thus it is fitting that Megdal labelled his book “The Baseball Talmud”, as the book is an authoritative interpretation of Jewish baseball with commentary.  It is first and foremost a baseball history book- but from a Jewish perspective.

I ended up reading Megdal’s books out of order, as “Taking the Field” was released after “The Baseball Talmud”.  I was actually pleased about this result, as I came into “The Baseball Talmud” with a more intimate feeling and knowledge about Howard Megdal having completed “Taking the Field”.  Even without reading “The Baseball Talmud”, I knew that Megdal had a strong feeling and passion for Judaism and baseball.  It was evident from “Taking the Field”, as well as reading his articles and interviewing him in the past.  Megdal is very proud of being Jewish.  Thus his passion and knowledge of Judaism and baseball made him a perfect authority to write “The Baseball Talmud”.  Knowing Megdal’s background, experience and personality, made me appreciate reading “The Baseball Talmud” that much more.

In my estimation, Megdal pulled off one of the biggest literary miracles in “The Baseball Talmud” (again appropriate given the Hanukkah season).  While most baseball fans enjoy talking about the history of the game to great lengths, most would not at first glance be terribly excited to read a “baseball history” book.  Baseball books can range in different categories, from autobiographies, instructional, statistical and historical.  “The Baseball Talmud” fits mostly into the historical category, with a pinch of statistics spread throughout.  Make no mistake, there are many modern players included.  From Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis, Steve Stone, etc., all the “big” name Jewish players that you know and love are discussed and analyzed.  But this book is far from a tribute to Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.  While two of the biggest Jewish baseball players of all time, Megdal recaps most (if not all) Jewish players that have ever played the game.  Names like Conrad Cardinal, Ed Wineapple, Happy Foreman, Erskine Mayer, Mose Solomon and Jake Pitler are all part of the book.  Not only did I learn about how the many Jews who played the game of baseball, I learned a great deal about the history of the game of baseball as a whole.  The success of this book though is in Megdal’s writing.  “The Baseball Talmud” is very well written with a great deal of history and statistics.  But it is done in a very fun and light manner, with excellent analysis.  Howard Megdal is a storyteller.  One of the best baseball ones that I have ever read.  So if you are jumping into “The Baseball Talmud” expecting a straight history and statistics text, think again.  This book is built upon the baseball stories and commentary within it.

The book is divided into a clean and easy-to-read format.  After reviewing the top Jewish baseball players of all time, Megdal then proceeds to list his top Jewish players at each position.  The lists are very specific, including all three outfield positions and breaking down right-handed and left-handed starting pitchers and relievers.  My favorite section is the all-time Jewish baseball team assembled by Megdal at the end of the book and how his Jewish team would compare to other teams from different eras.  On a personal note, I did take a great deal away from this book given my Jewish heritage and background.  But regardless of my own religion and culture, I would recommend this book to any baseball fan.  Young or old.  Novice or expert.  To really appreciate the game, it is important to know about the different leagues and teams throughout the years.  Players had careers interrupted and shortened due to wars.  Before the age of free agency, player movement was very limited and outstanding players were blocked and often left in the minors or on the bench rather than being given an opportunity elsewhere.  Such key components of baseball are discussed in Megdal’s book.  But again, having Megdal use his superior storytelling abilities in describing the players and their circumstances makes the book a winner.  This was a fun read, that had me laughing out loud many times and thinking throughout.

For the baseball fan in your life that has everything, I strongly recommend running out to your local bookstore or jumping onto a site like amazon.com and purchasing “The Baseball Talmud”.  I can think of many past Hanukkah seasons that I would have enjoyed receiving this book as a gift. It would also make a great stocking stuffer for any baseball fan of any denomination.  While it may seem humorous to receive “The Baseball Talmud” on Christmas morning under a tree or in a stocking, it would be well appreciated by all devotees of the game.  Baseball fans are always looking for more information and “something different”.  Well folks, “The Baseball Talmud” is as about as unique as it gets in the baseball world.  I enjoyed reading several of the chapters to my own 6-year old son.  If we are going to teach our kids as parents about the game of baseball early, it is important to use the right materials!  So Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and an overall Happy Holidays to everyone.  I look forward to hearing from everyone after you had a chance to read “The Baseball Talmud” to debate the rankings of the all-time best Jewish players.  Creating a forum for baseball discussion and analysis is what a good baseball book will do and makes “The Baseball Talmud” a clear winner.

***We highly encourage you to keep an eye out for our interview with Howard Megdal coming soon to MLB reports, as we discuss “The Baseball Talmud” and Howard’s newly released book “The Wilpon’s Folly:  The Story of a Man, His Fortune and the New York Mets”, available now for purchase.  We look forward to reading and reviewing “The Wilpon’s Folly” for you as well in the coming weeks.  Also check out “Taking the Field” and learn about Howard’s experiences in campaigning to become the GM of the New York Mets.  If you enjoy a good baseball read, you can never go wrong with a Howard Megdal book.***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Interview with Toronto Blue Jays Prospect: George Carroll

Wednesday December 21, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  We are pleased to welcome to MLB reports:  Toronto Blue Jays Prospect, George Carroll.  Coming off his first professional season, George played in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues in 2011.  The 23-year old New York native looks to rise in the Blue Jays system and make his name in the big leagues one day soon.  As a 6’2″ catcher, George has the physical tools.  We look forward to his development as he approaches his first full season in baseball.  

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with George Carroll – Catching Prospect for the Blue Jays:

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MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports! First question- Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after? 

George Carroll:  My two favorite players growing up were Jorge Posada and Craig Biggio.  Both guys were great players, and hard-working guys.

 

MLB reports: Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?  

George Carroll:  I don’t admire just one guy. I enjoy watching guys like Joe Mauer, Derek Jeter, Josh Hamilton and Posada.  These are hard-working players that had the attitude to “put up or shut up”.  I am a big fan of guys that go about their business the right way.

 

MLB reports: What are your proudest accomplishments in baseball? 

George Carroll:  I had three goals. Play Division I College baseball; Play in the Cape league; and play pro ball.  All three dreams have come true and now I just have to work harder to stay here.  I also got to play College baseball with my best friend from High School, Effrey Valdez.

 

MLB reports: What are your goals going into the 2012 season?  

George Carroll:  My biggest goal is to work hard and make a full season club.  I just want an opportunity to prove myself as a ball player at this level.

 

MLB reports: What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)? 

George Carroll:  My greatest skill is my ability to play defense, not just behind the plate but at all positions.  I feel this elevates my game for the positive.

 
MLB reports: What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?  

George Carroll:  Biggest thing I have to improve upon is my consistency with the bat.

 

MLB reports: How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

George Carroll:  Walk more and strike out less.  I have to better discipline myself as a hitter.

 

MLB reports: Long term do you see yourself as a catcher, first baseman or at another position? How do you view your role in the organization? 

George Carroll:  Mostly as a catcher.  But if I have to switch positions, I’m just going to have to make that adjustment.

 

MLB reports: If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there? 

George Carroll:  I pray I get the opportunity to get to that point, but it is something I can’t focus on.  I just have to work on my game and focusing on what is in my control.

 

MLB reports: Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far? 

George Carroll:  It has been everything and more.  This is the greatest job in the world.

 

MLB reports: What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

George Carroll:  I enjoy just hanging out with my buddies and my family.  My fun is when I am playing baseball!

 
 

MLB reports: Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?

George Carroll:  Peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches, with a glass of milk.

 

MLB reports: Final Thoughts?  

George Carroll:  I just got to work hard, believe in my abilities and get to the next level.  

 



Thank you again to George Carroll for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for George.  You can also  find George Carroll on Twitter (@GeorgeCarroll20)

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Who is the Padres First Baseman of the Future?

Wednesday December 21st, 2011

Sam Evans:On Saturday, the Padres pulled off a blockbuster deal with the Cincinnati Reds for Padres pitcher Mat Latos. One of the players the Padres received was first baseman Yonder Alonso. Prior to the trade, the Padres were heading into the season with Anthony Rizzo as their projected first baseman. Now, the Padres have some big decisions to make that will affect the outcome of their franchise for years to come.

San Diego acquired Anthony Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez trade a couple of years ago. In 2011, I watched Rizzo play once in Triple-A, and again in the majors. Rizzo came into the season as a top-fifty prospect, and solidified his stature with a strong start to the season. With the Tucson Padres in 2011, Rizzo batted .331 with a 149 wRC+. Rizzo made his debut on June 9 against the Nationals, and hit his first Major League homer two days later.

Unfortunately, that would be Rizzo’s only homer in the big leagues all year. Despite his dominance of the lower levels, Rizzo batted .141 for the big league team over forty-nine games. Rizzo plays with extreme intensity, and I would not be surprised (given that he is a young player), if he was down on himself after his poor performance in San Diego.

Rizzo struggled in the majors with making solid contact and squaring up the ball. He has a very long swing, which he might consider changing this offseason. If everything works out perfectly for Rizzo, he would project to be a .280/.350/.500 hitter.

Yonder Alonso is a very intriguing prospect. First of all, he is 240 pounds and two years older than Rizzo. He is not as athletic as Rizzo, and not a strong defender. In 2011, Alonso played shaky outfield defense because he was blocked by Votto at first base. From what I have heard, the majority of people think that Alonso can’t stick in the outfield. He lacks speed, and experience at the corner outfield positions.

Offensively, Alonso is an outstanding hitter. A great comparison for Alonso is a right-handed Carlos Lee. In his 69 games with the Reds over the last two years, Alonso has hit .299 with a .354 OBP and .479 SLG. If you add a couple more homers to those numbers, that would give you a good idea of what Alonso is capable of doing.

The San Diego Padres have a problem on their hands. However, some people are forgetting that this is a great issue to have. San Diego has the choice to either trade one of the above named players, or try to find a new position for one of them. If San Diego keeps both players, Rizzo will probably end up moving to the outfield. With his athleticism, he would probably do just fine. The Padres could also trade Rizzo, and they would probably get some decent to excellent players in return.

It will be interesting to see what the Padres do with this situation. They have several different options available to them. Personally, I would move Rizzo to the outfield and keep Alonso at first base. Nevertheless, I am still worried about Rizzo’s ability to hit Major League pitchers given his current swing. There is no doubt that this decision has a strong potential to change the course of the Padres franchise for years to come.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Huston Street and Edinson Volquez: 2012 Fantasy Baseball Targets

Monday December 19, 2011

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  As players continue to get moved in the offseason, it is important to take notice before your fantasy draft next March. Trades and free agent signings can have major impact on a player’s value. It is these types of players that you want to target on draft day, with the hope of drafting them at last year’s value. It is this approach that is essential for acquiring surplus value.

After the San Diego Padres lost Heath Bell to free agency, they now turn to the 28-year-old Huston Street to close games in 2012. Last year, with a 3.86 ERA and 29 saves, there were many more desirable closers than Street last season. However, leaving Colorado for San Diego, I expect Street to revert back to his Oakland days and quietly be one of the league’s top 10 closers. The reasons have everything to do with his surroundings.

First and foremost, Street is moving from one of the league’s most hitter friendly ballparks to the pitching friendly confines of PETCO Park. The proof is in the stats. In his three years playing in Colorado, Street had a 4.20 ERA in 94.1 inning at home compared to a 2.59 clip in 73 road innings. What has gotten Street into a lot of trouble throughout his career is the long ball, surrendering 22 home runs in the 167 innings he pitched as a Colorado Rockie. Expect this number to dramatically decrease in San Diego. For perspective of just how big PETCO Park is and how difficult it is to hit a home run, in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Adrian Gonzalez his just 23 of his 72 home runs at home. Baseball Reference indicates that Coors Field allowed 17% more home runs than the average park in 2011, while PETCO yields a rate 7% less than the average park.

At first glance, coming off a season with a 3.86 ERA and 1.45 HR/9 innings, Huston Street had the worst season of his career and will be undervalued by many. However, his fielding independent numbers show that he is the same pitcher that he has always been. The strikeout rate (23%) was just a little lower than his career clip (25.2%), and he was hurt by a .317 BABIP (.274 career) and an inflated home run per flyball rate (14.5% compared to 8.1% career). His XFIP was a much more respectable 3.14. Lastly, with the low scoring offense in San Diego, Street is likely to have a boatload of save opportunities, even if the team struggles to win 75 games. They are not going to below any teams out, so the majority of the wins will result in save chances. With Mike Adams gone as well, Street should not be susceptible to competition within the organization, especially as I expect the Padres to try to showcase Street as trade bait come July.

Huston Street projection for 2012:  57 IP, 4W , 3L, 36 SV, 58K, 2.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP


By taking the same approach, Edinson Volquez is a guy to keep an eye on in 2012. He struggled mightily in 2011, finishing 5-7 with a 5.71 ERA while also pitching 87 innings in the minor leagues as a 28-year-old.  However, this is a guy who has had success in the past and still demonstrated the ability to miss bats in 2011.

If used wisely, that is only at home and against favorable matchups; he has potential for great value. His k/9 ratio hovers just below 9 and he is another player who was hurt by the long ball. An astonishingly high home run per flyball rate of 20.7% in 2011 made it impossible for Volquez to have success. However, his career rate is only 12.7 percent and the switch to PETCO Park should assure that Volquez regresses back to the mean in 2012. By no means a guy who should anchor your staff or even start regularly, but he can provide tremendous value as spot starter in 2012. Furthermore, he is the type of player I like to own in the beginning of a season, because if has an impressive April, his trade value will be through the roof given his past success.

Many fantasy players will label Volquez and Street as “has been’s” given the fact that they are both a few years removed from their most successful major league season. However, both players are only 28 years old and were in unfavorable surroundings last season and now move to a pitcher’s most desirable location in San Diego. They will likely fly under the radar, and if they can be had for a price based on their 2011 performance, fantasy owners will surely reap the benefits in 2012.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

MLB Ballpark Traditions: American League

Monday December 19, 2011



Doug Booth-  Guest Baseball Writer:  Since I finished writing the book on my experiences in chasing down the World Record by going to all the baseball parks, I decided to ask for help in my research. I went to every ballpark for two years in a row from 2008-2009, and am always fascinated by traditions and things each city does at a ballpark. Like Sweet Caroline is always played in the bottom of 8th at Fenway or…. Tailgate parties that I have seen in Oakland, New York and Minnesota. This could be something on field, in the air, outside the ballpark, after or before the game. Fans have their own way of celebrating.  This is just what I have picked up.  What else am I missing?

New York Yankees-Yankee-Stadium

1. They take roll call for every position player–and it comes from the bleachers once the game starts. Each 9 starting fielders in the TOP of the first gets their name called. The fans chant each of the BALLPLAYERS until they wave their hats back to acknowledge them.

2. Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” is played at the end of every game in an infinite loop.

3. You got the ‘DEREK JETER’ with rhythmic clapping after wards

4. They chant HIP-HIP JORGE for Jorge Posada–or they say his name to the famous chant of soccer—JORGE-JORGE-JORGE-JORGE-JORGE-JORGE.

5. Of course there are the famous calls of John Sterling for each player. Example,-”Teixeira sends a TEX MESSAGE TO RIGHT FIELD oh you are on the ‘MARK’ Teixeira.

6. Of course booing all the opposition is common.

7. Still play “GOD BLESS AMERICA’ before “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME.”

Boston Red Sox-Fenway Park

1. Play the song Sweet Caroline in the bottom of the eighth.

2. They boo the catcher and pitcher of the opposite team every time they meet at the mound.

Toronto Blue Jays.-Rogers Center

1. They start at the time of 37-or 07 after the hour to accommodate both the Canadian and American anthem.

2. They have a chant in the stands where a guy counts from 10-1 and then everyone screams.

3. Other cities have called the some of the worst fans in baseball—they do the wave when they are down 10 runs—do you think they would do the wave in New York or Boston if their team was behind by 10 runs?

Baltimore Orioles-Oriole Park at Camden Yards

1. They chant “Oh” really loud at the time of the national anthem when the part says Oh say does that star spangle….”

2.  There was a kid who would sprint out with a player’s jacket whenever there was a pitcher called in relief from the bullpen-is he still there?

Tampa Bay Rays-Tropicana Field

1. They play the “HEY RAYS” song when they win.

2. They post the starting lineups on a scoreboard outside the park whenever they are playing that day.

3. They light up the lights outside the ‘TROP’ on nights they win so that motorists can tell the home team won.

4. They have cowbells they use in the stands ‘for effect’

Chicago White Sox-US Cellular Field

1. Their come out song is “Thunderstruck.”

2. They always shoot fireworks after the home runs.

3. They have an old-time song they sing every game, what is it?

Detroit Tigers-Comerica Park

1. They have one of the only names retired instead of numbers with “TY COBB”S’ name being displayed but no number ahead of his name.

2. They play “Detroit Rock City”, by Kiss before the game

Kansas City Royals-Kauffman Stadium

1. They shoot the water fountains high between innings.

2. One of the only clubs that play western music, this includes a rendition of “I got friends in low places.”

Minnesota Twins-Target Field

1.TC(the Twins Mascot)-hits batting practice with a lucky fan before every game.

Cleveland Indians-Progressive Field

1. They have the loyal drummer in right field that attends every game.

2. They usually play the song “CLEVELAND ROCKS” at some point in the game.

3. There is always a clip from ‘MAJOR LEAGUE’ used too.

Seattle Mariners-Safeco Field

1. There is a train that comes through about every 10 minutes in the background-almost as frequent as planes at CITI FIELD.

2. They were the ‘original team’ of the theme “ZOMBIE NATION” by KernKraft 400.

Oakland A’s-McaFee Coliseum/now O.Overstock Coliseum

1. Get there early enough and you are sure to find half the parking lot tailgating. Note: “Worst park to where opposition gear, after all, A’s fan is also “RAIDER FAN.”

2. I would never suggest public transportation in this area, serious safety concern–pay the excruciating 17 dollars and park outside the stadium for easy access in and out.

Texas Rangers-The Ballpark in Arlington

1. They play the “Natural” theme song whenever there is a homer hit by the home team.

2. “They sing the STARS AT NIGHT SONG” as do the Astros.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-Angels Stadium

1. The staff used to wear the 20′s usher outfits until recently but they still all wear straw hats like lots of other staffs.

2. They have the waterfall going a lot-and they also have fireworks every time there is a homer hit.

These traditions make baseball great.  I would appreciate any other traditions that you know of.  If you are the game it makes the experience so much greater in participating.  Booth7629@gmail.com

Get ready for Part 2 of Doug Booth’s Ballpark Traditions feature on MLB reports, with a look at the National League Traditions. Coming up this week on MLB reports!

*** Thank you to our Guest Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com*** 


Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Interview with J.R. Bradley: Diamondbacks Pitching Prospect

Sunday December 18, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  Today on MLB reports we are proud to feature James Ray (J.R.) Bradley:  2010 Arizona Diamondbacks draftee.  J.R. was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft.  He recently completed his 2nd season in the Dbacks organization, with his most recent season completed with the South Bend Silver Hawks (A-Ball).  At 19-years of age, J.R. has a strong future ahead with the Dbacks.  As a high draft selection, J.R. was clearly valued highly by the Dbacks.  As he continues his progression through the organizational ladder, J.R. looks to continue to develop as he progresses to Arizona one day.    

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Dbacks Pitching Prospect J.R. Bradley:

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MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports J.R. Bradley.  Starting off:  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

J.R. Bradley:  Growing up, I always liked Roger Clemens and Jon Garland. Liking Garland came from within the White Sox because Jon Adkins was playing for them. He’s from WV (West Virginia) and has helped me through baseball since I was younger.

 

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

J.R. Bradley:  Roy Halladay. Just the way he competes and handles himself.

 

MLB reports:  What are your proudest accomplishments in baseball?

J.R. Bradley:  Being drafted for sure. But we went to the states all 4 years in high school and won it twice.

 

MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?  

J.R. Bradley:  Just go out and get better, and make all my scheduled starts.

 

MLB reports:  Were you surprised when you were drafted in the 2nd round- did you have any expectations on the draft and who would draft you?  

J.R. Bradley:  I wasn’t too surprised I went to the Dbacks. I was hearing rounds 2-4 from everyone and was on the phone with Oakland when I found out.

 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

J.R. Bradley:  I’ve always been a guy who threw strikes. Now it’s a matter of throwing quality strikes, which is something I aim to improve this year. Knocking on wood, I’ve always been pretty durable.  I think it’s important to throw innings and make all my starts.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

J.R. Bradley:  Fastball command and getting ahead of hitters early in the count. Also consistency with my slider

 

MLB reports:  How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game? 

J.R. Bradley:  When I walk guys I get hurt, because I pitch to contact and try to get ground ball outs. Strikeouts I think will come when I tighten up my breaking balls. Once I do that, it will be easier to put guys away.

 

MLB reports:  Long term do you see yourself as a starter or reliever? 

J.R. Bradley:  Starter for sure.

 

MLB reports:  What do you need to do in order to be successful in this game?

J.R. Bradley:  I think a positive mindset.  Baseball is a game of failure already. No need to beat yourself up.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues?

J.R. Bradley:  Man… I’m just focusing on next season!

 

MLB reports:  Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far? 

J.R. Bradley:  Yes, for the most part. I didn’t realize how important it was to have a routine.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball? 

J.R. Bradley:  Just hang out.  During the season we’re at the stadium so much. In the offseason, I’ve just been working out and playing some basketball.

 

MLB reports:  Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?

J.R. Bradley:  No, I don’t really have a favorite pregame meal.

 

MLB reports:  Final Thoughts?

J.R. Bradley:  Thanks for everything man, really enjoyed it. Now just looking forward to getting out there!

 

 

Thank you again to J.R. Bradley for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for J.R.  You can also  find J.R. Bradley on Twitter (@JR_Brad)

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

My 2012 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

Sunday December 18th, 2011

Sam Evans:  2012 brings several new candidates to the MLB Hall of Fame ballot.  One thing that really annoys me about the current voting process is that it can take up to fifteen years for a player to be elected. So instead of saying that a player should/could be elected in the future, I’d rather they be elected right away.

For any Hall of Famer, I think they need to have at least ten seasons where they were one of the best players at their respective position. Also, if there is indisputable evidence of them using steroids, then I won’t vote for them.Without futher ado, let’s get to the players:

Mark McGwire: My vote is a no. Given his steroid use, I can’t bring myself to support one of the most dominant hitters of the 1990′s.

Barry Larkin: Larkin is a yes for me. From 1988 to 2000, he was the best shortstop in all of baseball. Yes, even better than Cal Ripken Jr. Larkin was a twelve time All-Star and he won the 1995 NL MVP award. In 2011, he received 62.1% of the BBWAA votes. He only needs about 13% more of the votes to make it this year, and it would be pretty surprising if he didn’t get in this time.

Jack Morris: Jack Morris is not a Hall of Famer. Jack Morris did show America that a starting pitcher can win clutch games for his team all by himself. In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against the Braves, Morris threw a ten inning shutout. This probably was the greatest World Series performance of all-time. However, when you look at his overall numbers, they’re just not that impressive. A career ERA of 3.90 and only 39.3 career WAR are just not enough for the Hall of Fame. Morris will always be remembered for his great clutch performances, but he doesn’t deserve to be a Hall of Famer. 2012 will be his twelfth year of eligibility, and he actually has a decent chance to make it. In 2010, he received his highest percentage of votes to-date, with 53.5%.

Edgar Martinez: My vote is a yes. Without Edgar, who knows if we’d still have the DH? You can read more about Edgar and the Hall of Fame in my previous article here.

Jeff Bagwell: This is a very easy yes for me. Bagwell collected an 83.9 WAR in his career. That is more than Derek Jeter and Reggie Jackson. Bagwell was an extremely consistent player, who won a ROY and MVP award. As of right now, Jeff Bagwell is the best player who played his whole career in the state of Texas. In his first year of eligibility, “Bagpipes” received 41.7% of the voters votes. He will definitely make it in the next couple of years.

Bernie Williams: Bernie Williams is a hesitant yes for me.  I have only liked two Yankees players in my history of fandom. Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams. Williams played the game every day like there was nowhere in the world he would rather be. Williams played about league-average defense, yet won four Gold Gloves due to his stature as a Yankee. Williams won four World Series and is now a superstar Jazz musician. However, the athleticism of Williams never translated into him being a great center fielder. Williams was solid at what ground he did cover, but he never really covered as much space as a center fielder should. Williams had a disappointing -109 TZ (total zone; a stat used to find how much ground a player covers) over the course of his career. However, Williams should be a Hall of Famer because of his loyalty to his team and helping break the Puerto Rican-American barriers. Williams was never the best player at his position, let alone his team, but he was a shining star in an era in which we needed one. This will be Williams’ first year of eligibility.

Bill Mueller: No chance I would vote for Mueller. Bill Mueller only played eleven seasons and he never even made an All-Star team. Every Hall of Famer should have at least fifteen years to their resume. Mueller was a decent player and he helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004, but he was not a Hall of Fame type player.

Larry Walker and Fred McGriff: Walker is a yes for me, and McGriff is a no. You can read more about these players in my previous article here.

2012 should be an interesting year for Cooperstown. There are probably three players that could be elected this year and they all deserve it. Lost in all of the comparisons of players from different era’s, we often forget how good all of these players were. Instead of criticizing people’s opinions on who deserves a vote, we should just appreciate all of the players’ individual greatness for what they are.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Ask the Reports: Saturday December 17th

Saturday December 17, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Which team is going to bite the bullet and sell the farm for Gio Gonzalez? There have been big demands from Beane thus far!!  Wade

MLB reports:  Great question Wade!  I don’t think we have gone an Ask the Reports segment in the past few weeks (or any days for that matter lately) without discussing the status of Gio.  Gonzalez has been linked to the Yankees for some time, but with the asking price being Montero and 2 other big time prospects, Brian Cashman has wisely declined.  I could see the Nationals getting in on the Gio Derby if they are prepared to pay the price, or the Kansas City Royals perhaps.  From a numbers standpoint, Gio would be best served heading to the National League.  His stuff and abilities would translate well in the NL.  Playing in the American League, specifically the East, would be asking for trouble.  His home/road splits are undeniable.  Gio would have a hard time succeeding in a hitter’s park.  But at this point, smart money is on the Yankees and Red Sox still as the frontrunners.  This is not the right move in my opinion, but the one that is most likely to happen.  But don’t count out the Nationals…they are planning some big moves still preparing for the Harper/Strasburg show.  

 

Do the Mets go after Theriot? Gio Gonzalez? Trade Murphy? What does your crystal ball say?  Raul

MLB reports:  The MLB reports crystal ball- you have been paying attention Raul.  Well done.  I don’t see the Mets going after Theriot or Gonzalez at this point.  Daniel Murphy is likely to be moved, although I don’t see a big return.  The Mets biggest needs right now are another bat in the outfield, catcher and starting pitcher.  I can see them going after a Jason Varitek or Jesus Flores behind the plate.  As far as an outfielder, the Mets will scrape by with a Rick Ankiel or J.D. Drew signing.  Someone to hopefully hold down the fort at a reasonable salary.  Joel Pineiro or Bartolo Colon could be potential targets.  2012 won’t be pretty…sorry my man.  It will be a rebuild year for the Mets.  

 

Jesus Montero next year…what will be his line?  Not Shawn

MLB reports:  The mystery of Montero.  I am expecting a big year assuming he gets a full-time position.  Which he should and likely will.  The Yankees will go from one catching DH to another, as Montero will likely replace Jorge Posada at the DH spot.  He will also see time at first base and behind the plate.  Despite 5 seasons in the minors, Montero is still only 22-years of age, believe it or not.  To be realistic, expect a .270 AVG with 15-18 home runs, 70 RBIs, 60 Runs, .320 OBP and .420 SLG.  Most hitters do not adjust to the major league game overnight, especially 22-year-old catchers.  Montero will put up good numbers, but he still needs time.  

 

When is a team going to sign Danys Baez?  Jason

MLB reports:  When hell freezes over?  At 34-years, Baez is coming off two very unspectacular season.  2010 brought a 5.48 ERA and 1.636 WHIP, while 2011 saw a 6.25 ERA and 1.556 WHIP.  We are looking at a minor league deal with invite to spring training at best.  Teams will look at Baez when all the other useable pitchers on the market are taken, or injuries start to appear at spring training.  If I was Baez, I would go take a nice long vacation around the world and leave my cell phone at home.  He should not expect a call until late January at best.  The man has earned approximately $43 million already in his career.  If he has one more season in him, it would be a miracle.

 

Yeah what’s up with da Yankees? Why aren’t they making any moves at all??  Drewskie

MLB reports:  We were asking the same question last year, weren’t we Drewskie?  There is a combination of reasons for the Yankees inactivity in recent years.  A very high budget with little flexibility contracts-wise.  Many good young players coming through the system and ready to take big league roster spots.  Very few quality free agents with unrealistic contract expectations.  29 other MLB teams which have little talent that they wish to move, especially to New York (unless the price is high).  Finally, while many players want to play in New York, some are shying away.  With the media and fan glare well-known in Yankee stadium, it is not the environment for everyone.  So at the end of the day, Brian Cashman is being smart in making sure not to make rash decisions and make moves just for the sake of it.  Remember A.J. Burnett?  Rafael Soriano?  Sometimes the best moves that you make are the ones that you don’t end up making.  The Yankees still have a high-octane offense and plenty of depth.  One or two more starting pitchers and fears will be alleviated.  Stay patient as the foundation is there.  Some under-the-radar pieces will be added in the next month.  Trust me.  It just may not be the moves you expect.  But anything that allows the core Yankees prospects to stay in the system is a good thing.

 

What do you make of the “sky-high” and “north” of $50 million reported bid for Yu know who? Clues that it may be Toronto?  Thomas

MLB reports:  Speculation has really gotten out of control on Yu Darvish.  Many outlets are reporting that the Jays are the winners of the Darvish derby at an estimated $48 million.  Despite this being the golden age of internet information, there is no confirmations at this point.  Darvish’s Japanese squad has until Tuesday to accept the bid, which is still a mystery to the public at large.  I could see the bid being as high as $70 million.  While the Blue Jays are apparently strong contenders for Darvish, don’t count out the Nationals, Rangers, Yankees and others.  This is a high-stakes poker game.  Nobody is showing their cards or folding yet.  I still see the Nationals winning the sweepstakes.  So we won’t know until the very end.  While spending $100 million+ between the post and contract is a risky move for an unknown MLB talent, in Darvish’s case it could make sense.  Between Japanese media attention, stadium revenues and merchandising, the Darvish brand could bring a high revenue stream to a MLB team.  It is not the route I would take, but as I crunch the numbers- I can see how the expenditure is justified.  Darvish will be playing Major League Baseball come April.  But as far as which city will be lucky enough to have him is still pure speculation at this point.  

 

Last question:  Why does life suck so much without baseball?  Tim

MLB reports:  Because baseball is life.  All kidding aside though, is life that bad without baseball Tim?  We have many outlets to get our fix.  Pop in a DVD to watch some older games or even a baseball movie.  Pick up a baseball book, there are countless good ones out there.   We have daily MLB reports (wink) of free agent signings and trades.  This baseball offseason has been one of the busiest ones in recent times.  We had a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.  The Astros were sold and relocated to the American League West.  The Winter Meetings.  Talk of an International Draft.  Expanding the playoffs.  Realignment.  There is never a shortage of baseball topics and news to discuss.  If you have access, there is winter ball.  Point being that even without live MLB games, there is always something baseball to-do and to keep busy with.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Websites like ours.  You can always find a baseball outlet.  Pitchers and Catchers report in 64 days.  It is a quick offseason.  Look at the season half-full instead of half-empty.  The baseball season is never done.  We just happen to be in the offseason stage- but it is still a key part of the overall baseball year.  I feel your pain Tim though. Opening day will be here before you know it.

 

ARCHIVE:  Click here for Past Issues of Ask the Reports

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

What the Yankees Need to Win the 2012 World Series

Saturday December 17, 2011


Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  It was a long season for Yankee fans in 2011, with an abrupt ending to the season with a brutal series loss to the Detroit Tigers in the AL Divisional series. This is even after the Yankees receiving surprising seasons by Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and the Yankees receiving production from its usual core players. However, in the 2011 season, there were noted declines of several Yankee players. Due to injuries and other factors, one of the biggest culprits  was Alex Rodriguez.  Limited to only 99 games on the season, A-Rod hit 16 homers, with a batting average in the .270 rang. A-Rod’s stats were some of the worst of his career and he was one the big reason the Yankees did not make it far into the 2011 playoffs.

The Yankees have a long path to go to get to the World Series this coming year, especially given that their team remains at a standstill, unexpected to improve greatly from last year. It is not a positive sign that the Yankees rotation will most likely consist of C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, with a likely spring training knockdown competition between Hector Noesi, A.J. Burnett, Dellin Betances and Phil Hughes for the final two rotation spots.

Both Hughes and Burnett had horrific seasons this past year, while Noesi and Betances were both late season call-ups. Adding to the equation, Ivan Nova might enter a sophomore slump (always a possibility), while Freddy Garcia is unlikely to repeat his astonishing 2011 season.

 The Yankees have very little margin for error going into 2012, which can ruin the chances of them not only winning the World Series, but even making the postseason.  With the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim now serious contenders, the Rays adding a nice hand to the rotation with Matt Moore and the Red Sox players starting to adjust to their new team, it will be a dogfight to the finish in the American League postseason race this upcoming season.  The Yankees will have to play their cards right this year, and not sit back and assume that making the postseason is a given.

 If the Yankees want some rings in 2012, here are several “must do” items for the team to succeed in 2012:

First of all, the Yankees must get rid of A.J. Burnett. For the last two years, Burnett had horrific seasons and should not be given another chance, despite his large contract.  Without Burnett, the Yankees could consider trying a new arm in the rotation, such as Dellin Betances, who is clearly ready for a major league stint. The Yankees this offseason should trade Burnett to a team desperate for a starting pitcher (which should not be difficult given the shallow pool of available talent) and who are willing to give up a useable prospect, which would provide the Yankees with future depth.

Even though it is unlikely, the right thing to do with Joba Chamberlain is to give him a strong opportunity for a comeback season in 2012. I am not saying he should be in the rotation for the season, but he should definitely be given a strong look.  Pitchers often improve after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Chamberlain left the rotation after the 2009 season, with a stint in the bullpen for the last two seasons. Up to the time of his injury, Chamberlain pitched well in the bullpen, mostly as the seventh inning option. The Yankees are considering Hector Noesi and other rookies for the starting rotation in 2012.  So why not try Joba? Perhaps he will surprise all of us and fulfill the hype that accompanied him since being drafted in the 1st round by the Yankees in 2006.

Another option (although unlikely) is to place Adam Warren in the rotation. He is 24-years-old, and has a powerful fastball in the mid 90′s. His four-seamer can reach 97 mph and could leave major league batters clueless. He has a world of potential, and is ready for a major league stint sooner rather than later.

The Bronx Bombers roster is certainly not set and Brian Cashman needs to search the trade market before his squad will be able to compete for a World Series title. Other teams are considerably high on Eduardo Nunez and the Yankees would be well advised to find a deal involving Eduardo Nunez, Dellin Betances and one of their surplus catching prospects for Gio Gonzalez or similar available starter, who could help provide the Yankees with a balanced and deep rotation.

The Yankees also must keep Montero in New York. Montero had a great stint at the end of the season, and will hopefully continue to provide an offensive spark for the Yankees throughout the 2012 season. Montero is a great offensive force and would make the dangerous  Yankees offense (Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Russell Martin etc.) that much more powerful.

Lastly, the Yankees must monitor Manny Banuelos‘ status. Handled correctly, Banuelos could be this season’s Nova.  To get through the regular season and then be a force in the 2012 postseason, the Yankees will need to make changes and several decisions as to their roster.  But a successful offseason can minimize the risks and chances for failure in the coming season, by filling critical spots with the right players.  The Yankees have many needs in their offseason to-do list in order to repeat their 2009 performance. If the Yankees play their cards right, the path to World Series #28 could be in sight.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Jeff on Twitter.***


Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Is It Time To Shorten the MLB season?

Thursday December 15th, 2011

Sam Evans: The MLB season right now is longer than it has ever been. With pitchers and catchers reporting February 19th this year,  and the World Series ending in early November, it is outrageous to expect players to stay physically and mentally healthy for an entire season. Major League Baseball needs to look into how they can make the season more fan and player friendly. One solution to this issue is to shorten the season.

The Major League schedule is more demanding than any other league. Not every MLB player is like Roger Hornsby who once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. Stare out the window & wait for spring.” The players have hinted that they would like a little longer offseason.  I don’t blame them, as Major League players go through a tremendous grind to complete a season.

It must be especially hard for the foreign players to have to be away from their respective homes for such a long time. Even if it means that the fans have to watch less baseball, the reality is that players deserve more time off. They are away from their families longer than anyone should be. In college, you only play roughly 60 games. In high school, the average team plays about 40 games. Overseas, the young players play about the same as an American high school. To have to make the jump from 40 games a year to up to 211, must be extremely difficult- to almost impossible.

However, shortening the season isn’t as easy of a task as it seems. Here is my multi-step proposal to fix the issue of the lengthy MLB season:

Players voluntary report to Spring Training: February 1st. This is for the Roger Hornsbys and Roy Halladays of the world. Having voluntary reports more than two weeks earlier than it is now would also provide injured players a trusted place to rehab. However, this timeline would also be optional for coaches, as they would also have the option to take time off if needed.

Spring Training: Starts February 20th. That date is about two weeks earlier than it was last year. Major League spring training would have teams playing only 20 games instead of 30. However, the games would be more spread out over the schedule, giving fans a chance to watch multiple teams every week. When I went to spring training in Arizona two years, I was disappointed that the players didn’t have enough time to just go enjoy themselves. Whether it’s in Arizona or Florida, the players should be able to have days off to rest their bodies and minds.  Downtime is healthy, especially during the spring in preparing for the season.

Start of Regular Season: April 4th. This is the exact same date that the Cardinals and Marlins will face off on opening night this year. Players would get back to doing what they do best, playing baseball in the most competitive league in the world. Every year, the quality of players would get better. During the long offseason, players would have time to get faster, stronger, and better prepared for the following season.

All-Star Break: July 9th – July 18th. Here is where it gets really interesting. The current schedule allows players only about three days off in the middle of the season. With this schedule, players would be able to return to their families for a nice vacation. However, here is a twist that I want to propose as well:  the trade deadline should moved up to July 20th. That way, the public would not lose interest in the game while the players are taking a break. The media would be filled with trade rumors, and once the break was over, the players could get back to playing baseball.

End of Regular Season: The season comes to a close on September 30th, which cuts off three games at the end.

Playoffs: The playoffs would start in October 2nd and end by October 26th at the latest. This would be following the same format as MLB currently uses with no more than one day needed for travel. Ideally, the World Series would end a week before Halloween. Baseball is a game that is supposed to be played under the sun, not in snow.

                Spring  Regular Season  Total
Current Sched:    30       162            192
Proposed Sched:   20       153            173

I completely understand that the current schedule exists in its current format because MLB needs to generate revenues.  Teams would have a hard time letting go of the extra games and the revenues they bring in, as the players could balk at any pay reductions based on a proportional reduction in games to salaries.  However, I think a lesser number of games would boost interest in the game. The first bowl of ice cream tastes much better than the fifth.  That is something to keep in mind in keeping the game fresh and exciting.

The schedule that I proposed today would hopefully give more time off for players, while not drastically decreasing the amount of revenue that the current schedule brings in. Major League Baseball’s current schedule is just too long and unaccommodating for the players. As much as fans and revenues are keys to the success of our national pastime, it is the players who define the game.  Shortening the season would lead to better rested, conditioned and happy players- which in turn would lead to better baseball overall.  If it improves the game of baseball, I am all for it.

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Interview with Jaff Decker: Padres Prospect and Future MLB Superstar

Wednesday December 14, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  Get ready folks, as you are in for a big treat today.  Exclusively on MLB reports, we have one of the top prospects in the game, outfielder Jaff Decker of the San Diego Padres.  Jaff was recently featured by us prior to this interview.  As a former 1st round pick of the Padres (2008 draft, 42nd overall), Jaff came to professional baseball as a very highly touted talent.  After working hard and improving every year in the minors, Jaff is on the verge of cracking the Padres lineup in the near future.  I had a chance to take some time to speak with Jaff recently.  We discussed his childhood, learning the game of baseball, getting drafted in the 1st round, his career to-date and future plans in baseball.  Despite being featured in many baseball publications and rated as a top prospect in the game, it was refreshing to find that Jaff has not allowed his notoriety to get to his head.  He is a down-to-earth person, who genuinely works hard and takes nothing for granted.  He believes in himself and his abilities, but with a strong sense of humor and humility.  I project that Jaff will have a long and productive career in the big leagues.  He has the talent, work ethic and focus to succeed in baseball.  Attention Padres fans: Jaff Decker is knocking on the doorstep and will be a big part of your Padres team very soon.   

Featured on MLB reports, I am absolutely thrilled to present my interview with Jaff Decker.  Former 1st Round Pick.  San Diego Padres Outfield Prospect and Future MLB Superstar:

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Jaff.  It is a pleasure to be speaking with you.  As you are a highly rated prospect in the game, do you receive many requests for interviews at this stage of your career?

Jaff Decker:  It has definitely started to pick up more and more as I have moved up each year in levels, especially with the teams I have played on the last couple of years.  Winning 2 championships out of 3 years has really helped the interviews out.

 

MLB reports:  It is impossible to have a conversation about Jaff Decker without first discussing the walks.  You had 85 walks in 2009 and 103 this past season.  How did you become a walk/obp machine?  At what age did you develop your strong batting eye?

Jaff Decker:  I would have to say it is pretty hard to go without talking about the walks I have had the past couple of years. Good and bad. My dad has taught me everything I know about the game of baseball and the hitting aspect of it. He has always taught me great fundamentals and has preached to me that “a pitcher has 3 pitches to get you out.  As the pitchers pitch you, work the count. A walk is just as good as a hit.”  But I am also learning to be a little more aggressive in the count as well, which I have worked real hard on by watching film and working on pitches.

 

MLB reports:  I often use Nick Swisher and Adam Dunn as comparisons to you.  What current and former players did you grow up idolizing and/or patterning your game after?  Have the names that I mentioned come up before?

Jaff Decker:  Yes, actually Nick Swisher has come up a lot.  I really enjoy watching how hard he plays the game and how much he enjoys playing this great game. Growing up though the years, it was always Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Tony Gwynn. I had so many opportunities to watch them play being from Arizona, so I always watching them during the spring. Funny story: when I was about 5-years-old, I caught a home run ball over Tony and actually got the ball signed by him after that inning.  That will always be a great moment in my mind.

 

MLB reports:  You were a 1st round pick in 2008.  One of the highest honors a young player can experience in the game.  Did you know that you would be drafted that high going into the draft and were the Padres the team that you expected to take you?

Jaff Decker:  Being drafted where I was a great accomplishment.  We had a huge party at my house during the draft and all my family and friends were there to experience it with me.  When my name finally got called, it felt like the house was shaking (laugh).  To answer your question, I actually had no idea that the Padres were going to pick me there. There were many teams that had talked to me before. But they (the Padres) kind of flew under the radar and I couldn’t be happier with this organization.

 

MLB reports:  What was the first “big” purchase you made after signing with the Padres?

Jaff Decker:  My first and only purchase was a car. Everything else has been put away. But I did have to promise my mom who is a teacher that I would go back to school after I was done playing (grin).

 

MLB reports:  You started off the first two seasons of your career with a bang.  How did you find your 2010 season?  What was that season like and tell us about your strong finish that year.

Jaff Decker:  I had battled an injury during the first half of 2010 and I struggled a little bit.  It (the injury) did get to me a little bit, as I was not helping the team like I knew I was capable of doing. So I had a few days off at the all-star break that year and went home.  Just like when I was younger, my dad spent those 3 or 4 days putting in many hours in the cage with me working on the fundamentals and just the mental side of hitting.  When I came back, everything fell back on track. The big thing was not trying to do too much at the plate and just trusting myself and to start using the whole field again.

 

MLB reports:  Your 2011 season was magical in my eyes.  You crossed the magical 100 walks plateau, while flashing strong power, driving in and scoring runs at a healthy clip.  Looking back on this past year, what are your feelings?  Satisfied?  Areas of improvement?

Jaff Decker:  I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% satisfied.  I felt that I had ups and downs all year and my struggles related to being too patient at times at the plate.  There were points that I would know when I was getting pitched around.  No excuses at all, but I became a little complacent with what I call “maybe pitches”, that were called strikes by the umpires, but in my eyes were balls.  We also didn’t play in the most hitter-friendly ballpark.  I did feel though that I came up with some big hits at times during the season. But I still need to work on different parts of my game to get to where I want to be and stay there.

 

MLB reports:  In my estimation, you clearly put yourself in the driver’s seat going into 2012.  You are turning 22 in February.  What are your goals for the upcoming year?

Jaff Decker:  I would have to say my goals would include coming to spring training in better shape again. I love proving people wrong and to show them that I can be a five-tool player, even without being 6 feet and built like a specimen. But I want to work hard to prove them (the critics) wrong and I just try to soak everything I can in.  I work out at a place with many proven big leaguers. I just can sit and listen to what they say for hours because I know they have been there and who better to learn from than them.

 

MLB reports:  Have you watched and/or read Moneyball?  You have been labelled a Moneyball-player throughout your career.  Thoughts? 

Jaff Decker:  Yes I have seen the movie (big laugh) and I loved it.  I love seeing that a ballclub can be put together that is not based on how you look, but how you control the game of baseball.  Because by no means when you look at me, am I built like a brick house.  But I’ve been taught how to play the game the right way and I think it’s helped me get to where I am today.

 

MLB reports:  Is conditioning a strong concern for you, either as your own goal or anything communicated by the team?

Jaff Decker:  Conditioning is huge for me.  Like I said earlier, I am no way a guy you look at and say he could be a model (chuckle).  I do have to work harder than some other guys and be smarter how I treat my body.  I am learning how to do that and love seeing everyone’s faces when I show up after a long hard offseason of workouts and preparation.

 

MLB reports:  You hit .236 this past season, but have a career .273 AVG.  You also have a .411 lifetime OBP.  How do you view OBP, strikeouts, batting average and home runs as part of your game?  If the walks and home runs remain consistent, is there any concern that your average needs to be raised?

Jaff Decker:  I believe that I had a slight down year in the average department, but I know I can hit a whole lot better than I did.  I felt like I came through with runners in scoring position and by walking, I got on base for the middle of the lineup behind me.  Getting on base equals scoring runs (laugh).  But my power was there throughout this year.  It was just about taking what the pitcher gives me, even if it’s a single the other way instead of a double in the gap.

 

MLB reports:  Long-term, do you project that you will remain in the outfield?  How important is defense to your overall game?

Jaff Decker:  I believe I can handle my own in the outfield. I have worked very hard every year and tried to learn a lot from other guys.  A big part of my game on defense is getting good jumps and routes on balls, because I can run well- but not blazing.  I need that to become a great outfielder and that is what I have worked very hard on every year to become better at.  I love being able to take hits away from opposing batters, especially if they (the other team) are taking them away from me (big laugh).

 

MLB reports:  The MLB reports crystal ball sees you arriving in San Diego as early as this upcoming year and latest 2013.  When do you see yourself arriving in The Show?  What do you need to do to get there?

Jaff Decker:  That is great to hear (big grin).  I know I can play this game with the best of them.  I always have and when the chance comes, I don’t plan on missing it.  I have some things to iron out and I am working day and night to become that complete player that I know I can be.

 

MLB reports:  Did you always know that you would be a professional baseball player?  What would you be doing right now if you weren’t playing ball?

Jaff Decker:  Honestly I get that question a lot. I have asked my mom and dad the same thing.  They said they knew the time I first stepped on the field and was diving for balls, throwing guys out and just had a natural feel for the game.  Even when I was 4 or 5, I was playing with older boys and having to lie about my age so I could play with them.  I have always loved this game since I can remember.  I was constantly standing in front of the television and mimicking all the big leaguers stances.  I was even sleeping with my new bats or gloves.  There is honestly nothing else I could be doing right now… or ever.

 

MLB reports:  Last question Jaff:  What legacy do you want to leave in baseball?  What do you need to do to have a successful baseball career?

Jaff Decker:  I want to be remembered as the guy that played this game to the fullest, had fun doing it and played the best I could every time I stepped in-between the lines. Even if I didn’t have my best stuff every game, you can always say that I went out there with everything I had to be great.

 

Jaff Decker:  Thanks again Jonathan and I look forward to being back on MLB reports soon. Thanks for everything.  I have really enjoyed speaking with you!

 

Thank you to Jaff Decker for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Jaff.  You can also  find Jaff Decker on Twitter (@JaffDecker22).  He may be a top MLB prospect, but yes- he does answer back!

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Review of Routine Baseball: The Filthiest Baseball Threads in the Game

Tuesday December 13, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  I will start off this review by admitting some very key points.  While I write and review the game of baseball and everything surrounding it, I am also a fan of the game.  You have to love this sport to be able to talk and write about it every day.  I have no problem admitting it:  I love baseball.  But when you love the game to this degree, you start to lead a very baseball-centric life.  Baseball apps on the smartphone.  Baseball birthday cake.  Libraries filled with baseball DVDs and books.  Are you sensing a baseball theme in my life?  That is the reality of a true blooded, 110% focused baseball fan.  So what do baseball fans need more than anything else? Good baseball gear.  From shirts to hats and everything in between, baseball fans require good apparel.  That is where I got introduced to Routine Baseball.

Part of the mandate of MLB reports is to uncover everything and anything in the world that is baseball.  That was the purpose behind Technology Field, a section of our website devoted exclusively to technological advancements and products related to the game of baseball. When I first came across Routine Baseball, my immediate thought was to include its brand of baseball wear in Technology Field.  We all know and love official MLB clothing that we find at the ballpark.  Majestic jerseys and shirts, New Era Caps…those are brands and clothing items we know very well.  I will admit that when I first arrive at a new ballpark, I made a direct line to their main souvenir shop to try on baseball gear.  Will they have retro Jersey Ts?  How much are the jackets?  These are questions that are always answered before I even make it to my seat.  But we can only wear team and player gear so often.  That is where Routine Baseball is unique and part of a very fresh niche market.  Hip and fun baseball clothing without the team logos and names.  An advancement in the art of baseball fandom. Thus I had no choice but to see what the fuss was about it.  Was I ready for filthy baseball threads?  The answer was a definite yes.

The first point I noticed wearing and looking at the sample shirts that were sent over to the MLB reports office was the quality.  I love the feel and construction of these shirts.  Routine Baseball emphasized to me in our discussion that their products is 100% American Made.  Taking a look at each product, there it is right on the label:  “100% Filthy American Quality.”  I am still of an age where filthy meant dirty and undesirable.  But to the hipsters and urbanites, filthy is apparently good.  Filthy means cool.  I have owned hundreds of baseball tops during my lifetime.  Routine Baseball definitely got it right in how they built a baseball shirt.  You know that feeling when you buy a stiff top from a store that needs to be worn and washed dozens of times before it feels soft and fun to wear?  Not with Routine Baseball clothing. These clothes are ready to wear right out of the wrapper.  The best way I can describe them as the type of shirts that you keep at the top of your drawer and just grab and wear without ever thinking.  They are soft, the right thickness and fit like a glove.  I am very picky about clothing, especially baseball gear.  Routine Baseball put a great detail of thought and work in the construction of these bad boys.  Surely it costs a great deal more in labor by having their products produced in America.  But it is definitely worth it.  These are not shirts that you will wear twice and find holes.  These are shirts that will be worn for a decade…if not more.  You baseball rats know what I mean.


So the first test was passed.  Routine baseball shirts live up to my quality standards.  Now for the designs.  Routine Baseball is not pretending to be traditional or old-fashioned.  The company is going for the urban modern look.  I will admit that not all their designs are for everyone.  But that is the beauty of having many different designs and logos.  There should be something for everyone.  The first shirt that I opened was actually my favorite of the bunch.  “Paint the Corners” was the printed image in black on a grey top.  Love it.  Absolutely love it.  The shirt had a baseball theme that hit home for me.  I really enjoyed the slogan and how it was designed on the shirt.  The logo was well designed to be smart, but not too complicated.  I similarly enjoyed the RBI shirt – “Routine Baseball Inc”.  A nice use of colors, yellow and white on a black top.  The logo was clean and hip, with a clear baseball message across.  The busiest logo was “Triple Crown Status”, with a lion wearing a crown and a baseball in his mouth.  An interesting shirt, as it would not be my first choice of shirts in a store.  But the blue print on the grey shirt gave it a nice look.  I actually found the shirt worked very well with a pair of jeans and a blazer.  I don’t find the same versatility in general baseball logo gear.  That is yet another factor that makes Routine Baseball gear stand out from the crowd.

As a young fresh company, Routine Baseball hasn’t even hit their stride yet.  The product lines include t-shirts, hoodies and hats, for both men and women.  I expect in the coming months and years we will see a full-out explosion of filthy gear from Routine Baseball.  Jerseys. Shades.  Jackets.  Shoes.  The sky is the limit.  At the end of the day, everyone only has a certain amount of money to spend on products and services.  For the best bang for the buck, it is always wise to buy a well made good.  They made cost a little more, but they will last far long than an inferior one.  Routine Baseball gear is well worth the purchase.  I can sum them up by saying their shirts are comfortable, fit well and look good.  Wearing baseball gear is all about displaying the love of the game and standing out from the crowd.  We are not talking about 1970s Pirates and 1980s Padres clothes (although some actually that type of look).  Routine Baseball gear is clothing that you can wear almost anywhere and in any setting without being outcast as the novelty baseball fan.  It is cool to love baseball again. Filthy baseball gear is the newest “must have” gear in the world of baseball fandom.  With the holiday season around the corner, http://routinebaseball.com is a good stop location to get some cool threads to the baseball fan in your world.  From one baseball fan to another:  Filthy is the new cool.

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

 

A big thank you to Mike and Tony over at Routine Baseball for providing us with samples of their products for this review.  They are very hands-on enterpreneurs and take full advantage of social media to be reached and heard.  You can start off by checking their website:  http://routinebaseball.com.  They can be reached on Twitter (@RoutineBaseball) and Facebook.

 

Now for the promo stuff.  A little something from the fine people at Routine Baseball.

Here is the story of how they came to exist:

Routine Baseball was started by two friends Tony Knapton and Michael DeGrave, Tony the CEO and Michael the CFO.  It all started in 2009 when we were in college and started talking about baseball one night sitting around having a few beers.  Tony walked out with his old raggedy state baseball t-shirt he had received many years earlier while participating in a state tournament, and I told him that it looked like an old bar rag (due to the stains and little holes on it) and that he should retire the baseball tee and throw on a new one to go out.  Tony upset by the comment and most of all from the point of retiring his last piece of memory from that great state team, decided to retire the t-shirt.  The idea was created later that night to bring baseball lovers such as ourselves a clothing line that would evolve baseball and fashion into one entity.  With the knowledge each of us had of the game, and what we went to school for (Tony a Graphic Designer, and Michael Business) we knew this dream could eventually turn into a reality.  This is how the idea of Routine Baseball was developed. However, a couple of beers earlier turned into many more and this grand idea turned quickly into a faded after thought and the idea was lost… along with a few brain cells.

Fast forward to Fall of 2011 and this is where the fun starts. One random night Tony had a couple of beers while watching a baseball game and out of no where the idea popped into his head and he then half drunkenly designed the logo (has been completely unchanged since) and 2 of the shirts THAT night and the call was made to Mikey that very next day. Then came the fun process of bank, lawyer, and ball player meetings and a month later (yes only a month) we launched Routine Baseball on November 1, 2011. Starting out with just 6 t-shirt designs at launch, in just one month we have added 16 more designs to our fall line, including a Women’s line and hats on the way as well. We have been in contact with many Minor and Major league players, and hopefully eventually we will become a household name.  We have only scratched the surface of the baseball fashion industry and what we want to accomplish as a business, and we feel that Routine Baseball will take off-the-field baseball apparel to the next level.  We try to combine our passions for baseball (obviously), music, art, and current fashion trends and blend them all together in our designs. Also, being a couple 20-something year old’s really plays to our advantage in how we interact with our followers and how we relate to them. They really enjoy the fact that we don’t come off as a strict-by-the-book company where certain topics might be off-limits. So jump on board with Routine Baseball because we are expecting a ride of a lifetime, and we want you to join in on the fun.  

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